June 18, 2014
On June 18, 2014 representatives of several French associations published a petition advocating: “Yes to secularism, no to discrimination.” Among the signatories are sociologists Jean Baubérot, Christine Delohy and Saïd Bouamama, along with Hervé Bramy, Patrick Braouezek and journalist Rokhaya Diallo, among others.
The petition begins: “We veiled women banned from school field trips, but also parents of schoolchildren, women, union members, activists, female and male politicians, intellectuals, citizens, launch an appeal for respect for secularism and the end to discriminatory treatments.”
At a time when France is making international headlines after the recent European Parliament Elections witnessed the rise of far-right parties, the petition claims that France has transformed from a country that stands for “human rights” into one that “rejects foreigners, ‘others,’ and all those who do not conform to the predominant norm (white, male, Christian, rich).” The call for equal rights aims to create a “desire to be unified regardless of difference.”
Currently, veiled mothers are not allowed to chaperon their children on field trips, but have the right to vote in school committee elections and to be members of these committees. “We can’t find coherent arguments to explain this to our children,” states the petition, “At their age what would they think of the mistreatment that their mother is subjected to on the part of educational institutions?”
The appeal points to the increasing discrimination that Muslim women face when they accompany their children to school. Yet the petition does not seek to dismantle secularism, rather to ensure that secularism is “finally respected and fairly applied.”
“We, signatories of this appeal, request the repeal of the Chatel memorandum, that which is sexist and Islamophobic, as well as all the discriminatory laws and memorandums that preceded it. Islamophobia, discrimination, sexism, injustice, inequality, stigmatization: That’s enough.”
The signatories invite those who support secularism and equality to put an end to discrimination, which “promotes the rise of extremism that pits populations against one another.” They requested a meeting on June 18 before the Ministry of Education to call for an end to the Chatel memorandum.