The search for 'secularism' in France's inner cities


In its response to the terror attacks in Paris in January the French government emphasised the importance of schools and the central role of secularism in fighting intolerance and extremism. Mediapart recently visited schools in the north of the French city of Amiens, an area which has recently seen riots and where the Moroccan-born education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem herself grew up and was educated. Here the issue of secularism divides teachers, parents and local help groups alike. “I have the impression that, faced with this debate, everyone is a bit lost,” says one teacher. Mediapart's education correspondent Lucie Delaporte reports from the city.

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“Under the guise of empathy and tolerance we have let situations develop that we should never have accepted.” That is the blunt response of nursery school headteacher Béatrice when asked about the government's new-found attachment to secularism after the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks of January.