Everybody remembers how brutal the French Revolution was; up to 40,000 people killed by the guillotine; the rise of Napoleon; responsible for Hugh Jackman’s singing in Les Miserables. Hopefully never to be repeated. Sadly this week, it was.
The Guardian sent their war correspondents to the front line of a new French Civil War. The battleground is suburban Paris. The aggressors are secular mayors of Sarkozy’s party, Les Républicains. The defendants are the local Muslim population. To understand the issue, a better revolution to reference may be the Indian Mutiny. For the issue is school dinners – pork in school dinners.
To fill you in with some background, a number of French departments have said that they are going to start serving pork at lunchtimes, whilst providing no halal alternative to Muslim children. To ensure the child doesn’t go hungry, they plan to serve them extra vegetables, a fact which I’m sure the majority will be thrilled about. Their justification for this is laïcité, or the French principle of secularism. The French public sector has a long history of this, insisting that religion has no place in public society, a policy which has resulted in a number of recent controversies. There was the ruling that no private sector worker could wear any outward religious symbolism, a ruling that includes the hijab. The burka was banned nationwide in 2009, and now, in 2015, the latest issue has raised its head.
Perhaps justifiably, the Muslim population have claimed these laws are a form of legal Islamophobia, possibly due to the strong support for them from Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN). Sociologist François Dubet warned “talking about secularism has become a way to claim a white Christian France, where everyone shares the same values and traditions, a way to say we don’t want Muslims.” This issue has become incredibly divisive in France, but what I find amusing is the attitude of the far right to school dinners.
I imagine the latest meeting of the FN, taking place in Calais for satirical value. Marine Le Pen has fought her way through the throng of migrant camps to give a keynote speech. She’s thought for the last month about the problems facing France.
“Islamification is a growing issue,” she begins. “They are trying to defeat us by growing from within, taking over our youth. And how are they doing this?”
“How?” The masses of disaffected French xenophobes shout back.
“They are refusing to let our young eat pork! We have eaten saucissons for generations. It gave us bravery in the Second World War, now it gives us liberté, égalité and fraternité!”
A voice pops up from the back. “But Marine, the Muslims only want to be served alternatives. Our young can still eat pork.” However, his voice is quickly drowned out by the noise of NF supporters. He is quickly denounced as a migrant due to his green eyes, and kicked out from the meeting by a pair of overweight football hooligans from Lille.
“Now is the time to rise!” cries Le Pen. “We cannot let our minds wander. Every time we look away, they embed their values into OUR culture even more. Ah, la vache! Don’t worry about the other issues facing France. Crippling public sector wages, social tension, even immigration doesn’t matter. Bring back the chop for those who don’t want pork. Fight for the pork chop. Vive la belle France!”
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