French draft law aims to ban religious symbols for child minders


The controversy surrounding the Islamic headscarf in France is making headlines again as the French National Assembly studies a draft law that will ban religious symbols in all facilities catering for children, including nannies and childcare assistants looking after children at home.

The draft law was approved by the French Senate with a large majority on Jan. 17 and it was sent to the National Assembly to be ratified before being signed it into law by the president.

“Unless otherwise specified in a contract with the individual employer, a childcare assistant is subject to an obligation of neutrality in religious matters in the course of childcare activity,” reads the text of the draft law introduced by Françoise Laborde, a senator from the Radical Party of the Left.

“Parents have the right to want a nanny who is neutral from a religious perspective,” the left-wing senator was quoted as saying by ANSAmed news agency.

Critics of the draft law say Laborde is targeting Muslim nannies and childcare assistants.

The senator said that she was “encouraged to act” after a private nursery, Baby Loup, fired an employee who refused to remove her Islamic headscarf.

In Oct. 27, 2011, the appeals court in Versailles upheld the decision to expel the employee as lawful.

“The recent ruling of the Court of Appeal of Versailles in favor of Baby Loup is in the right direction, and I hope that this case is translated into law,” Laborde said in December 20011.

Djamila, a childcare assistant, told Rue89 French website it is “absolutely not her role” to speak of religion with kids.

“We look after children of younger three years. Can you you tell me what can they understand at that age?”

An analyst in secularism, Jean Baubérot, wrote in a blog posted on the website Mediapart, that he was outraged by the brandishing of secularism in what he described was a law discriminatory against Muslims.

He accused the ruling Union for Popular Movement and the interior minister Claude Guéant of having torn secularism’s principle of “religious freedom” by reviving links between religion and the state while at same time cracking down on individuals’ links with religion.

Last week, Guéant, who is a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement, stirred controversy when he told a symposium organized by a right-leaning student group at the National Assembly that “contrary to what the left’s relativist ideology says, for us, all civilizations are not of equal value.”

He criticized the French Socialist Party for not having voted for a legislation that banned the Muslim face veil.

In March 2004, former French president Jacques Chirac signed into law the controversial bill on secularity and religious symbols in schools. The law banned wearing conspicuous religious symbols in French public, primary and secondary schools.

Although the law did not mention any particular religious symbol by name, it was widely believed to target the Muslim headscarf. It raised protests across many Muslim countries and prompted Islamist militants to threaten attacks against France.

(Written Mustapha Ajbaili)