A French far right mayor’s decision to scrap substitute meals for students who do not eat pork has been branded “anti-Muslim”.
Julien Sanchez, the Front National mayor of Beaucaire, ditched his predecessor’s scheme on the first day of the new school term.
The move means around 150 mainly Muslim pupils have lost their “substitution meals”.
Marlene Schiappa, France’s minister for sexual equality, told BFM TV the move was a “typical example of someone brandishing secularism as an anti-Muslim political weapon, or anti-Jewish for that matter”.
Mr Sanchez insisted the introduction of pork-free meals was “anti-Republican” and a “provocation” because it introduced “religion into school”.
“We are not a four-star restaurant,” he added on Twitter.
The 34-year-old, who became mayor in 2014, also designated Monday as a day schools had to offer pork as an option.
“I am not Islamophobic,” he told radio station France Info. “I am not afraid of anybody and I do not have the desire to exclude anyone. I’m just saying, what’s the problem with pork?
“If there was a medical problem I could understand it but there is no medical problem.”
World news in pictures
According to Le Figaro, the opposition leader in Beaucaire, Laure Cordelet, said the Front National’s decision was “an attack on the rights of the child”, which “stigmatises the Maghreb [north African] community and can in no way be justified in the name of secularism”.
Parents will hold “a Republican picnic” on Monday to protest the move.
“The idea is that we parents, whether Muslim or not, do not put our child in the canteen on Monday since it is the day when there is pork. Instead, we will all eat together in the town hall square,” a parent told the newspaper.
The Independent was unable to reach Beaucaire town council for comment.