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POLITICS

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

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.

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

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

  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. 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.

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POLITICS

Revealed: France’s funniest politicians and their best ‘jokes’

Politicians' jokes are more usually met with a groan than a laugh, but France's annual prize for political humour has been awarded - here are the zingers judged the best in 2022.

Revealed: France's funniest politicians and their best 'jokes'

According to the jury on the Press club, Humour et Politique awards, the funniest politician in France is the Communist leader (and 2022 presidential candidate) Fabien Roussel.

His award-winning zinger is: “La station d’essence est le seul endroit en France où celui qui tient le pistolet est aussi celui qui se fait braquer.”

It translates as ‘the petrol station is the only place where the one holding the gun is also the one who is robbed’ – a joke that works much better in French where ‘pistolet’ means both a pistol and the petrol pump. 

On a side note for British readers – Roussel also looks quite a lot like left-wing UK comedian Stewart Lee, so maybe he has funny genes.

Second prize went to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy with his withering assessment of Valérie Pécresse, the candidate for his old party in the 2022 presidential election, who did extremely badly.

“Ce n’est pas parce que tu achètes de la peinture, une toile et des pinceaux que tu deviens Picasso. Valérie Pécresse, elle a pris mes idées, mon programme et elle a fait 4.8 pourcent”

“It’s not because one buys paints, canvas and brushes that you become Picasso. Valérie Pécresse, she took my ideas, my manifesto and she got 4.8 percent of the vote.”

While these two were jokes – in the loosest sense of the word – the prize can also be awarded to politicians who make people laugh inadvertently, such as last year’s winner Marlène Schiappa who, when announcing plans to ban polygamy, felt the need to tell the French, “On ne va pas s’interdire les plans à trois” – we’re not going to outlaw threesomes.

Here’s the full list of finalists for the funniest political joke of 2022 – somehow we don’t think you’re at risk of split sides with any of these.

Ex-Prime minister Edouard Philippe talking about hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon: “Il faut une certaine audace pour que quelqu’un qui a été battu à une élection où il était candidat puisse penser qu’il sera élu à une élection où il n’est pas candidat!”

“It takes a certain audacity for someone who was defeated in an election where he was a candidate to think that he will be elected in an election where he is not a candidate!”

Ex-Assemblée nationale president Richard Ferrand: “Elisabeth Borne est formidable mais personne ne le sait.”

“Elisabeth Borne is great but no-one knows it.”

Ex-Macronist MP Thierry Solère: “Mon anatomie fait que si j’ai le cul entre deux chaises, je suis parfaitement assis.”

“My anatomy means that if I have my ass between two chairs, I am perfectly seated.”

Some information that might be useful for this one – the French phrase avoir le cul entre deux chaises (to have your ass between two chairs) is the equivalent of the English ‘falling between two stools’ – ie a person who cannot make up their mind what or who to support. Further information; Solère is a largish bloke.

Hard-left MP Eric Coquerel: “S’imaginer qu’on va remplacer Jean-Luc Mélenchon comme ça, c’est une vue de l’esprit. C’est comme se poser la question de qui va remplacer Jaurès.”

“To imagine that we will replace [party leader] Jean-Luc Mélenchon like that, is purely theoretical. It is like asking the question of who will replace Jaurès.”

Jean Jaurès is a revered figure on the French left, but not currently very active in politics, since he was assassinated in 1914.

Rachida Dati to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: “Votre présence au Conseil de Paris est aussi anecdotique que votre score à la présidentielle.”

“Your presence at the Council of Paris is as anecdotal as your score in the presidential election.”

There’s no doubt that Hidalgo did humiliatingly badly in the presidential election with a score of 1.75 percent. Daiti didn’t stand in the presidential elections but she did put herself forward to be mayor of Paris in 2020 and was convincingly beaten by . . . Anne Hidalgo.

So that’s the ‘jokes’, but there were also some entries for inadvertently funny moments.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: “Tous les matins, je me lève en me disant que tout le monde m’aime.”

“Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that everyone loves me.”

But the undisputed queen of this genre is the green MP Sandrine Rousseau, whose ideas and policy announcements seem to have provoked a great deal of mirth.

Je voudrais qu’il y ait une possibilité de délit de non-partage des tâches domestiques – I would like there to be the possibility of a crime of not equally sharing domestic tasks

Les SDF meurent plus de chaleur l’été que l’hiver – The homeless die from heat more in the summer than the winter

Il faut changer aussi de mentalité pour que manger une entrecôte cuite sur un barbecue ne soit plus un symbole de virilité – We must also change our mentality so that eating a steak cooked on a barbecue is no longer a symbol of virility.

If you prefer your humour a little more scientific, Phd researcher Théo Delemazure has done a study of which politicians and political parties are funniest when speaking in parliament.

He analysed how often speeches raise a smile or a laugh (which presumably includes sarcastic laughter) and concluded that the party that gets the most laughs is the hard-left La France Insoumise.

They are also the party that speaks most often, however, when he calculated the laughter rate per time spent speaking, the prize went to the centre-right Les Républicains.

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