Catholic schools in France have announced they would be willing to enroll Muslim girls who might be expelled from public schools for wearing traditional Muslim veils, as a law prohibiting the wearing of “visible religious symbols” goes into effect.
The Diocese of Alsacia in eastern France proposed allowing the girls to enroll in Catholic schools, “as long as they respect the rules of the center.”
The Federation of Catholic Education Centers confirmed afterwards that the offer “is not only limited to that region.”
“In our centers we do not require that religious symbols be left at the door because we believe in education and in asking questions about the fundamental issues of life,” said Gilles du Retail, spokesman of the Federation. However, “the only requirement will be that the students respect others and not refuse to integrate,” he added.
The absence of Muslim schools means the parents of expelled students will have to pull their kids out of schools altogether or enroll them in distance-learning programs or Catholic schools.
The Minister of Education, François Fillon, attempted to calm tensions saying, “There will be no expulsions on the first day.” School officials will require the “rebel” students to stay in the library, and a week of negotiations will take place between officials and parents, after which a decision on whether or not to proceed to expulsion will be made.