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ISLAM

Headteacher abused over lesson on Islam

The principal of a Catholic primary school in the east of France received a torrent of abusive phone calls, letters and emails, all because one of her teachers gave a history lesson on Islam.

Headteacher abused over lesson on Islam
File photo of the Koran. Photo: Hassan Syed

Christelle Lainet – headteacher of the Notre Dame primary school in Saint-Mihiel, a town in the north-east of France, was bombarded with threats after reports of the lesson were placed on an anti-Islam website.The site also published the school’s address and phone number, and Lainet’s email address.

“My mailbox has been inundated with 300 letters, and the school telephone hasn’t stopped ringing,” the headteacher told Europe 1 radio.

“I’ve been the target of some very violent and insulting mail,” said the principal, who said she felt “frightened.”

The hate-mail was in response to a lesson given last December when a teacher distributed hand-outs on the origins and history of Islam. One of the pages contained a ‘surah’ (verse) from the Islamic holy book the Koran, “by way of illustration”, regional daily La Républicain Lorrain reported.

Some parents were offended, however, and registered their unhappiness with Lainet. On January 9th, one child’s mother, who held “extremely racist views” had a heated exchange with the principal in the school yard.

Two days later, the same student’s father asked that his child be allowed to leave the history class without punishment, a request that Lainet agreed to.

On January 29th, however, the French website ‘Islamisme’ – which describes its goal as “to defend our freedom of expression and our values” – published a damning account of the history lesson, accusing the school of “poisoning” the children with “Muslim propaganda.”

A more specific claim made by the extremist site was that the student who was excused from the history class, was subsequently sent to the principal’s office to be punished.

The outraged headteacher, who apparently has the support of most parents at the school as well as the governors, responded this week by filing a complaint of defamation against the website.

For its part, the ‘Islamisme’ website responded to the French media outcry by stipulating “we called for a reaction, not intimidation,” and has denounced Lainet’s defamation complaint as “futile.”

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EDUCATION

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules

Around three-quarters of French teachers plan to go on strike onThursday to protest the government's shifting rules on Covid testing for students, forcing the closure of half the country's primary schools, a union said Tuesday.

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

The strike led by the Snuipp-FSU union, the largest among primary school teachers, comes after the latest of several changes on testing and isolation requirements for potential Covid cases announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex late Monday.

After seeing long lines of parents outside pharmacies and labs in recent days to test children in classes where a case was detected, Castex said home tests could now be used to determine if a student could return to school.

But teachers say class disruptions have become unmanageable with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Students cannot learn properly because attendance varies wildly, and a hybrid of in-house and distance learning is impossible to put in place,” the Snuipp-FSU said, adding that absent teachers are not being replaced.

It is also demanding the government provide facemasks for staff, including the more protective FFP2 masks, and CO2 monitors to check if classrooms are sufficiently ventilated.

“Not only does the current protocol not protect students, staff or their families, it has completely disorganised schools,” the union said, claiming that classes have effectively been turned into “daycare centres.”

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said the government is doing everything possible to avoid outright school closures that could cause havoc for parents and jeopardise learning for thousands, especially those in low-income families.

“I know there is a lot of fatigue, of anxiety… but you don’t go on strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM television on Tuesday.

As of Monday some 10,000 classes had been shut nationwide because of Covid cases, representing around two percent of all primary school classes, Blanquer said.

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