The alert comes from the central services of the Ministry of National Education. In a note sent to all the academies of France, they report “a mobilization on social networks aimed at challenging the 2004 law prohibiting the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols at school”. The report comes from the national center “Values de l’école de la République” of the ministry, responsible for providing operational support to the teams in the field, in particular on questions of secularism. “The ministry regularly informs the academies of trends relating to attacks on school life, whether they are acts of violence, harassment or attacks on the values of the Republic, in particular secularism”, confirms on rue de Grenelle.
An internal letter from the Dijon rectorate, among the first to react, reports this national alert. “I know I can count on your vigilance and your determination”, says Pierre N’Gahane, rector of Dijon and former prefect, in this letter. sent on September 6 to all the headteachers and principals of his academy.
The letter, which L’Express was able to consult, then goes into the details. “Attempts to undermine the values of the Republic can take various forms,” she said. Some are known today: “encouragement to wear clothes marking a religious affiliation at school”, “conflictualization of relations between students and staff”, or even “criticism or threats on the networks towards staff”. More surprisingly, it is also a question of “call to prayer in establishments” or “invitation to blackmail the photo of young Muslim women unveiled”….
A “very fertile” imagination
A source close to the ministry is concerned about these new methods deployed in the field and encouraged by calls launched on the Web. “The imagination of those who attack the values of the Republic is unfortunately very fertile,” sighs this source. “This upsurge in online activity follows what was observed at the end of the 2021-2022 school year,” said Pierre N’Gahane in his letter. On June 2, the newspaper Opinion denounced an “epidemic” of Islamic outfits at the gates of high schools, in particular abayas or kamis, these long tunics worn to the ankles. Based, among other things, on an alert from territorial intelligence to the Ministry of the Interior, and on feedback from several rectorates, the daily reported on various attempts to attack secularism. “As in all matters, when there are epidemics, there must be symptoms, and we measure”, reacted Emmanuel Macron. “There should be no taboos, no prohibitions and no fantasy either. So, I want the truth, clarity on all the figures,” continued the head of state.
For the Ministry of National Education, today it would be above all a “simple reminder of the usual procedures carried out by this academy”. On June 25, in an interview given to the Parisian, Pap Ndiaye had delivered an inventory, revealing that, from December 2021 to March 2022, the institution had counted 627 reports for attacks on secularism in schools, colleges and high schools. “Globally stable” figures, had underlined the new Minister of National Education.
The share of religious outfits in the total of attacks on secularism had however increased since they represented 22% of the total of reports. “I decided to have a monthly evaluation from September rather than quarterly, to have less expectation on these figures”, had finally announced Pap Ndiaye. There is no doubt that these new data will be carefully scrutinized.