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Debout la France leader Nicolas Dupont-Aignan. Still from YouTube

French conservatives question proposed Arabic teaching at schools

French conservatives on Tuesday criticised the "revival of teaching of Arabic" in schools welcomed by Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer. 

Published: September 14, 2018, 10:18 am

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    The Institut Montaigne think tank issued a report suggesting that rejuvenating Arabic-language learning at French schools was key “especially since Arabic courses have become for Islamists the best means of attracting young people to their mosques and schools”.

    Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer added that Arabic should not “just be learnt by people of north African or Arab origin”.

    Asked for his thoughts on the proposal, Blanquer told BFMTV that Arabic was “a very important language, like other great civilizational languages” and needed to be “developed” and “ascribed prestige”.

    The number of middle- and high-school students learning Arabic in the French school system had been halved over the past 20 years, while Arabic teaching in mosques had increased tenfold.

    The plan was met with indignation and quickly denounced by most conservatives.

    Debout la France leader Nicolas Dupont-Aignan told France Inter radio station that it would introduce a “fatal sequence for the country”. He said he was “totally hostile to the Arabisation of France and the Islamisation of the country”. Blanquer hit back at Dupont-Aignan, telling him that he was a “sad individual”.

    “It is adapting to the problem more than solving it,” Les Républicains spokeswoman Laurence Sailliet told Radio France Internationale. “How can one imagine today not putting all our efforts into the teaching of the French language?”

    Boosting Arabic-language instruction in schools will not solve the Islamic problem, other conservatives explained. “I think [Blanquer] is making a mistake: teaching Arabic in secondary school will not take a child out of the Koranic schools and will not solve the problems of teaching preaching in Arabic and the rise of Salafism,” according to Annie Genevard, member of the conservative Les Républicains told Sud Radio in an interview.

    Another member of the party, Eric Ciotti, tweeted: “Privileging the teaching of Arabic in school is to fracture France and strengthen communitarism.”

    Former conservative education minister Luc Ferry expressed his reservations too. “I think it isn’t such a good idea. Who will do it? Is this about fighting Islamism or about bringing it into the National Education Ministry?”

    Blanquer was “playing with fire”, said to Robert Ménard, conservative mayor of the southern town of Béziers, who warned that the proposal would “legitimise the birth of another nation in France” with “incalculable consequences”.

    Formerly known as the National Front – and now the National Rally – lawmaker Louis Aliot called the plan “ludicrous”, saying it did not respond to any real demand.

    “We are in an ideology of submission,” said Aliot. “I am in favour of us teaching French, these languages that allow our young people to work… rather than a language that will systematically confine those pupils to their culture of origin.”

    The proposal to introduce Arabic, comes in the wake of a book by anti-Islam author Eric Zemmour titled Destin français in which he says modern day France is living in “a tragic and quite terrifying moment”.

    He told broadcaster Europe 1 that France was being “colonised by foreign civilisations” currently.

    Zemmour says the cult of human rights is distressing, damaging and potentially devastating: “We live in the world dreamed of by Victor Hugo, the one of candles that respond to knives.” French people do not express hatred “that replicate that of the ‘Allahu Akbar'”.

    And according to him, it is not an idyllic state, but nightmarish. What has happened in a few decades? “The universal vocation of France that has long served French patriotism, has turned against it today,” he estimates.

    “I have the impression that we have arrived after several decades of mistakes, big misadventures and self-hatred, that we have come to the end of this road. France has been white and Christian, except that today religion is no longer the only determinant of the nation,” he explained.

    “From the moment when there is a majority of people who are not French and live with foreign cultures, not only Islamic, they are not French territories but territories colonised by foreign civilisations”, Zemmour said.

    “The result is that there are more and more territories composed uniquely of Muslim populations, since the others run away because of this delinquency, because of this violence,” he concluded.

    In an unexpected part of his book, the essayist speaks of his childhood. “I wanted to explain where I come from,” says Zemmour. He longs for a time when “we had collective happiness, material and an idea of French greatness thanks to General de Gaulle”.

    “A more peaceful time”, according to him, characterised inter alia by “the unity of the French people despite the political struggles, the assimilation of foreigners into a French culture, the absence of veiled women”.

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