France Battles "Islamist Infiltration" by Suing Lying Student in Hijab Row

The French government is seeking to file charges against a high school student after she falsely accused her former principal of assaulting her after he made her remove her headscarf on school premises, according to the French prime minister.

The Paris school principal was forced to resign after receiving death threats online following the altercation with the student, following security advice to take his early retirement after the incident when he was due to retire in June.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who also previously served as the country’s education minister, announced during an interview that the government would defend French secularism, or laïcité, and would file a complaint against the student over falsely accusing the head of the Maurice Ravel Lycée in eastern Paris of mistreatment.

The state … will always stand with these officials, those who are on the frontline faced with these breaches of secularism, these attempts of Islamist entryism in our education establishments,” Attal said during the evening news broadcast of the French television channel TF1, adding “we mustn’t let anything slide, and I will never let anything slide on this question.

Secularism and religion are controversial topics in France, especially in light of two high-profile murders of teachers by Islamists, which had heightened fears in the country over Islamist threats against schools in France, which hosts Europe’s largest Muslim community.

Relations between the French government and French Muslims have long been a flashpoint, especially as the French government aims to uphold its version of secularism by banning religious articles and symbols like headscarves from state institutions.

The incident between the school principal and the Muslim student began in late February when the headteacher asked three students to remove their headscarves from the premises of Maurice Ravel Lycée school in line with French law. 

But one of the students refused to remove her hijab and even “looked to intimidate” the principal by falsely accusing him of physically assaulting her while removing her headscarf. She told a French newspaper the principal “hit hard on the arm” during the incident and lodged a complaint against the principal.

But Paris prosecutors later determined that the student, an adult attending the school for vocational training, was unjustified in her complaint and did not pursue a prosecution. Attal also said the student’s accusations were shared on social media, leading to “unacceptable” death threats against the principal.

According to a school letter sent to teachers, pupils, and parents, the principal stepped down for “security reasons,” while education officials said he took an “early retirement.” In a message addressed to the school’s staff, quoted by a French communist daily, the principal said he had decided to leave “for his own safety and that of the school.”

Two people believed to be responsible for the death threats against the principal were arrested and detained, according to a statement released by the French education ministry. The ministry also further showed its support for French teachers, saying it would never abandon them in the face of threats against them.

The ministry also said “all teams” remain mobilized, adding that the principal’s decision to leave was “understandable given the seriousness of the attacks against him.” The death threats against the principal are also being investigated.

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