Just a year ago, Vincent Peillon, Minister of Education, has launched the idea of teaching “secular morals” beginning in French kindergartens up to high school level. The project was in the meanwhile enthusiastically received by the French public and has been renamed “teaching moral and civic duties”. It’s due to be launched in 2005.
With the beginning of the French school and university terms, the Ministry of Education has presented its “Charter of Secularism”, which is aimed to be exhibited in every educational institution of the country with the exception of private schools. The details of the Charter are so far unclear, but scepticism has arisen amongst religious communities, including France’s Muslim community as to what influence such a charter will have on the right to freely express faith. During the presentation, Peillon made sure to calm his critics by reassuring that “the battle for secularism is not to oppose one another, but a fight against those who want to oppose one another”. In an interview to a regional newspaper days prior to the launch, Peillon stated that “the issue of secularism should not turn into an obsession of Islam” (…) The vast majority of our fellow Muslims are convinced of the benefits of secularism. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not to challenge education or miss a class . The charter recalls these principles.”