The New York Times: The College Student Who Has France’s Secularists Fulminating

2 June, 2018

Commentary by Francois Crépeau: “This kind of unhealthy debate ensures that integration is made more difficult for many – French citizens and foreigners alike –, that people feel singled out and excluded – thus fuelling marginalisation and radicalisation –, and that society’s fractures become more entrenched – the consequences of such exclusion will be felt for decades to come –. Moreover, it distracts from real issues, such as the reform of education. French society is shooting itself in the foot and comforting the far-right analysis that migration is bad and migrants dangerous. Since mobility and diversity will increase in the coming years whether the French radical secularists like it or not, unwelcoming policies and polarising debates could dominate the headlines and pave the way for a far-right government, until another generation – much less afraid of diversity and mobility – takes over and brings openness and sensitivity to the transformation of French society.”

By Aida Alami

PARIS — The French interior minister, Gérard Collomb, called her appearance “shocking.” Marlène Schiappa, the minister of gender equality, said she exhibited a “manifestation of political Islam.” The satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo put her on its cover with a drawing that many considered racist.

Her offense: wearing a head scarf during a television interview.

Elected last December as the leader of the Sorbonne chapter of the French National Students’ Union, Maryam Pougetoux, 19, is used to hearing from those who disagree with her progressive views. But she was entirely unprepared for what happened last month after she criticized recent changes in educational policy in the interview.

Ms. Pougetoux, a practicing Muslim who wears a head scarf that covers her hair and neck, had been asked to comment on one of the main television channels, M6, about proposed changes that would make admission to universities more selective. She and the hordes of students who took to the streets recently in protest consider the measure discriminatory and elitist.


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