In response to the rise in Islamic radicalism, the French minister of national education is expressing support for adding Arabic to the school curriculum for French children.
In an interview with French television this week, Jean-Michel Blanquer said that France needs to draw up a “qualitative strategy” for teaching French children Arabic, calling it one of the “great languages of civilization” that should be learned “not only by people of Maghrebi origin or Arabic-speaking countries.”
According to France 24, Blanquer’s comment “stems from a 617-page report entitled ‘The Islamist Factory‘ released Sunday by Paris’s Institut Montaigne think tank. Among its conclusions, the report suggested that rejuvenating Arabic-language learning within the French school system was key ‘especially since Arabic courses have become for Islamists the best means of attracting young people to their mosques and schools’.”
The report’s author, Hakim El Karaoui, wrote that Salafi indoctrination “is gaining ground in France” due to the increased presence of these Islamic schools. “The number of students learning Arabic in France’s secondary and high schools has halved. But the rate has multiplied by ten in mosques,” wrote Karaoui.
Nationalist leaders in France have decried the education minister’s proposals. Robert Menard, mayor of the town of Beziers, denounced it as a “project with incalculable consequences.”
“To develop the teaching of Arabic in school and to ‘give prestige’ is to legitimize the birth of another nation within France,” Menard tweeted.
“In a normal country, immigrants are asked to integrate, especially by learning the national language. In our country, the Minister of Education wants French children to learn Arabic,” wrote the National Rally party’s Antoine Baudino.
France 24 provides some additional reactions from the right:
“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 with teaching preaching in Arabic and the rise of Salafism,” Annie Genevard, a lawmaker for the conservative Les Républicains, told Sud Radio.
“Who will do it? Is this about fighting Islamism or about bringing it into the National Education Ministry?” asked former conservative education minister Luc Ferry. “I think it isn’t such a good idea.”