No, France is not proposing a ‘register of Muslim children’

No, France is not proposing a 'register of Muslim children'
The proposal is for France's pupil ID system to extended to children who don't attend state schools. Photo: AFP
False information that swept social media over the weekend has lead to the French government being accused of running a 'Nazi style' regime. Here's what happened.

France found itself accused of behaving “as the Nazis did to Jews” after a claim swept the internet that the government was proposing to create a register of Muslim schoolchildren, and assign all Muslim children with ID numbers.

The claims seem to have begun on English-language Twitter accounts and were then repeated by Pakistan's human rights minister, who made the comparison with Jewish people forced to wear yellow stars by the Nazi regime, in a tweet that was later deleted.

The claims were then picked up by several high profile American journalists who, without apparently taking the steps to check whether they were true, also accused the French government of acting like Nazis.

The only problem – there is no such plan proposed in France.

But the widespread claims forced the French government to take to Twitter to put the record straight.

“Any so-called information pertaining to alleged intent to register children being schooled in France based on religion, belief or origin, is absolutely false,” tweeted France's Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in English.

 

 

So what is happening?

The proposals referred to are contained in France's proposed Loi confortant les principes républicains (law confirming republican principles).

READ ALSO What is in France's new law to crack down on Islamic extremism?

The law is due before the French parliament on December 9th and so far only an early draft has been published.

The law is focused on preventing radicalisation and Islamist extremism in France, it was proposed in the summer, but revised after the beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist extremist.

Among the proposals in the bill is one to give all school-age children in France an education number.

In reality most children in France already have this number, the identifiant national élève (INE), which children are assigned when they start school and which follows them throughout their educational career.

 

But children who are never enrolled in state schools, either because they are home-schooled or attend private school, do not get a number, and it is this the government wishes to change, to ensure that all children complete a full education.

 

Emmanuel Macron, outlining the principles of the bill, said there were concerns that some ultra-conservative Muslims were taking their children out of the French state school system.

The proposal for numbers, however, would apply to all children, whatever their religion or ethnicity.


Secular state

In fact because of the French state's commitment to laïcité (secularism) it would be both illegal and impossible to assign a number only to Muslim children. 

 

The French state declares itself 'colour blind' and does not collect any data on the religion or ethnicity of any residents – if you have ever filled out an official form in France you will notice that the one question never asked is your religion or ethnic background, in contrast to many other countries including the UK which do collect data on the race and religion of their residents.

READ ALSO ANALYSIS: Is France really 'colour blind' or just blind to racism?

Education proposals

As well as extending the pupil ID numbers, the proposed law has stricter controls on children who do not attend schools.

In France home-schooling is possible, but quite tightly regulated,  with parents having to register with local education authorities and submit to inspections to ensure that their children are receiving a complete education.

It seems that the bill intends to tighten this process further, establishing that only in exceptional circumstances can children be educated at home, although no detail has yet been published on what these circumstances would be and how parents can be authorised to home-school.

 

The full bill will be published on December 9th when it will be debated by MPs.

Diplomacy

The French government has released a statement saying that it has raised the matter of the Pakistan minister's tweet with the country's embassy in Paris.

The French government's statement reads: “A member of the Pakistani government spoke social media in terms that are deeply shocking and insulting to the President of the Republic and to our country.

“These hateful remarks are shameless lies, imbued with an ideology of hatred and violence. Such calumnies are unworthy at this level of responsibility. We reject them with the utmost firmness. 
 
“We have made our condemnation known without delay, in the strongest terms, to the chargé d'affaires of Pakistan in Paris. Pakistan must rectify these statements and return to the path of dialogue based on respect.”
 
 

 


Member comments

  1. Good point Bridget. Most likely the minister & others simply fall prey to belief in Chinese whispers (& I hope that’s not a racist term as it was a childhood party game), whispers based on nothing, that can start anywhere with people just wanting to make a fuss.
    These slips happen when writers are getting copy out in a hurry but so many people read & jump to conclusions all round the world it’s tricky. A lot of people are actively looking for things to get enraged about.
    Yes, thanks The Local for all the background info.

  2. The English-language twitter accounts and other readers also may have initially misinterpreted the law if they read the Local’s coverage from the article called,
    “What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?”

    Key quote-
    “[The bill] also provides for each child to be given an ID number that would be used to ensure they are attending school. ‘We must save our children from the clutches of the Islamists,’ Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told Le Figaro newspaper on Wednesday.”

    The child ID number statement is directly followed with a quote from the interior minister about saving children from Islamists, which makes the two things seem associated. It’s confusing.

    Anyways I appreciate the efforts from the Local team to try and demystify all of this for those of us still trying to assimilate in France.

  3. The Pakistan human rights minister should be band from Twitter and sent to prison for a while, for spreading hate speech!

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