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In Angers, a teacher from a Catholic high school indicted for discrimination against a Muslim student

The affair took a national turn in a few days. Last week, an economics-management teacher at the Joseph-Wresinski vocational high school in Angers (Maine-et-Loire) had an argument with a first-year student in the pro-health-social bac. According to West France, this professor would have affirmed in class that the “ Catholic schools should have continued to teach only students of the Catholic faith ” andreportedly told a Muslim student “ that he could always change his religion “.

→ ANALYSIS. A “French” Islam, difficult but not impossible

The student and the teacher then filed a complaint, the first for discrimination and the second for threats and physical and verbal assault. Suspended as a precaution by the rectorate, the teacher was indicted for “Incitement to racial or religious discrimination”, “Moral harassment” and “False denunciation”. The case will be judged on May 4 before the Angers Criminal Court.

Provocative thoughts

The teacher in question, who is also mayor of a town in Maine-et-Loire, pleads the unfortunate trait of humor. Formerly involved in the Debout la France movement (he was its general secretary), he is accustomed to provocative reflections on the religion or the origin of his students. “I have already received him in an individual interview to ask him to stop using this kind of humor,testifies the director of the establishment, Anthony Belangé. First of all because they are sensitive subjects and then because it is aimed at adolescents. It has no place.

In the largest vocational school in the region, around 20% of the 1,000 students are of Muslim origin. “It’s linked to our recruiting sector”, continues the director, specifying that “Welcoming everyone” is part of the school’s project. ” The name of our school is that of the founder of ATD Fourth World, who defended access to education for all. “ The establishment also finances the education of five migrant students each year.

A media boost

“This event took on a media dimension that is beyond us”, he continues, assuring that his high school, which also employs teachers of the Muslim faith, does not experience a climate of opposition between religions. ” We all live well together, each with their beliefs, he continues. Sometimes Muslim students and teachers participate in our celebrations. All of this is offered and never imposed.

Priest in Lyon and specialist in relations with Islam, Father Vincent Feroldi notes that “ many Muslim families wish to put their child in Catholic education because they assimilate public education to a place where God has no place ”.

According to him, the media momentum caused by this altercation is linked to a particular context in which, on the one hand, “ supporters of a secularism aiming to exclude any religious dimension from public space ” and on the other, a Muslim community ” who constantly feels stigmatized and no longer accepts discrimination By investing the legal ground. All against the backdrop of an electoral campaign where Islam crystallizes the debates.

Take into account diversity

Responsible for pastoral animation within the General Secretariat for Catholic Education (SGEC), deacon Joseph Herveau recalls that welcoming students of all origins and faiths is both a ” legal obligation “In establishments under contract (provided for by the Debré law of 1959) and” an ecclesial necessity “, Consisting in welcoming the populations” as they are ”.

In 2017, the SGEC published a practical book called Educate in dialogue, interculturality and interreligiousness in Catholic schools to better take into account this diversity. It gives keys to food, the wearing of religious symbols or the social behavior of students.

We must always discern what is religious behavior from what is childhood and adolescence “, He continues, citing the case of three young girls from different cultures refusing swimming pool lessons. ” It turns out that one of them has problems with her body, another, of Pakistani origin, does not know swimming in her country and that the third wanted to follow her girlfriends. Nothing radically religious! “According to Joseph Herveau,” it works well in the majority of our educational communities. But we are in a period where everyone is on edge about identity issues “.


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