A request that sparked outrage. Police officers asked the heads of schools in Toulouse (Haute-Garonne) to tell them the number of students absent on the day of Eid al-Fitr, which took place on April 21 this year. This holiday marks the end of Ramadan for Muslims. Several politicians and ociations have pointed the finger at a desire to register a religious group and have expressed their indignation.
Facing the outcry, the Ministry of the Interior explained this Sunday in a press release having indeed asked in certain academies for an “evaluation of the rate of absenteeism observed on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr” but denies any “recording”.
What was requested?
This request, which dates back to April 26, was revealed last Friday by The Midi Dispatch. Heads of establishments and directors of secondary education schools received an email that day from the departmental directorate of public security (DDSP) of Haute-Garonne. They were asked by “the intelligence services”, in order to “know the percentage of absenteeism on Friday April 21, 2023, during the Eid holiday”.
“The territorial intelligence services went through national education referent police officers, their message was poorly formulated, but asking for an absenteeism rate is not registration or personal data”, ured a close source on Friday. of the file to AFP. This territorial intelligence work is part of a context of “renewed attacks on secularism in schools” during the Ramadan period, according to this same source, with for example “challenges for social networks to film themselves with a veil” or refusals to participate in singing and music lessons.
In the press release published this Sunday, the Secretary of State responsible for citizenship Sonia Backès ensures for her part that “the Ministry of the Interior and Overseas Territories regularly studies the impact of certain religious holidays on the functioning of public services , especially in the school sphere. “It is in this context that a request to know the rate of absenteeism was sent” in certain academies “.
For the ministry, it is not a question of filing because “no nominative data was neither requested nor recorded at any time”.
The rectorate of Toulouse not aware
This request was made without the approval of the rectorate of Toulouse. “In no case do we carry out investigations of this kind”, declared Mostafa Fourar, rector of the academy, adding that “as soon as the heads of establishments and directors of schools informed us of this request, instructions were obviously given not to answer it”.
According to information from World, a similar email was also sent to colleges and high schools in the Hérault, this time from a senior official of the departmental service of national education. It was then asked to disregard this request.
“National Education staff are deeply attached to the principle of secularism, they were struck by this request which casts unacceptable suspicion on all Muslim families celebrating Eid al-Fitr” writes the Sud Éducation union in a press release this Monday. “They are waiting for a firm and clear response from the National Education to condemn this investigation. »
The union also recalled the existence of a circular of May 18, 2004in which it is specified that “absence authorizations must be able to be granted to pupils for major religious holidays which do not coincide with a day off”.
Questions remain unanswered
According to the Union of French Mosques, some heads of establishments have however “unfortunately, responded to the request of the police”. “Families must be duly informed and reured of the future of the information given”, writes the organization, asking for a “proper investigation”.
SOS Racisme, for its part, pointed the fingerwith this request from the authorities, the breach of the principle of secularism and the principle of equality “since, very fortunately, no request of this type has ever been made for other religious groups” than that of Muslims.
Despite the response from the Ministry of the Interior, the ociation deplores the persistent vagueness on this request : “For which other religious holidays has the Ministry of the Interior requested an essment of the rate of absenteeism from the heads of establishments? Why did the ministry choose to speak directly to the heads of establishments and not to the rectorate? (…) If the ministry is worried about the functioning of public services, why does it not ask a question about… the functioning of public services? »