French Mayor: ‘It’s pork or nothing’
Marcel Mortreau, inset above, is the Mayor of a small town in the south of France – and right now he is at the centre of a storm after refusing to provide halal meals for Muslim kids at the local school. He is reported as saying:
It’s pork or nothing.
The Mayor’s stance means that from January 1, 2015, pupils in the little town of Sargé-lès-Le Mans in the Sarthe department of north-western France will not be offered a substitute meal if they don’t eat pork.
This will affect the 15 Muslim pupils in the school. Eating pork is also against the rules of the Jewish religion but it is not believed there are any Jewish pupils at the school.
Mortreau says his decision is based on the “principle of Republican neutrality”.
The mayor is not required to provide meals that respond to religious requirements. This is the principle of secularism.
The Town Hall has also backed its decision on the grounds of logistics claiming its new school meals provider had complained about the extra workload that comes with providing alternative meals when pork is on the menu.
The mayor bowed to their complaints even though providing a second meal costs no extra money, according to France Bleu radio.
Muslim parents and pupils have reacted angrily to Mortreau’s decision.
One pupil named Tarik huffed:
Eating two starters is not the same as eating a meat dish. Meat is something the body needs to work and to think. I need meat, it’s important.
His mother Yasmine was also upset.
Telling a small child that ‘you will eat less today because there’s pork on the menu’ is difficult to comprehend. You feel it is discrimination. You hear comments like, ‘if you don’t like it, take your children home’. It hurts.
It’s not the first time the issue of having substitute meals for Muslim and Jewish pupils has been at the centre of controversy in France.
In April this year far-right leader Marine Le Pen said schools in towns run by National Front mayors would no longer serve alternative meat dishes to pork.
We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus. There is no reason for religion to enter into the public sphere.
In March 2013 the school in the village of Arveyres in the Gironde region of south-west France stopped offering an alternative meal for children who did not eat pork. The decision affected around 30 of 180 pupils.