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families and unions deny, town hall and rectorate maintain the reports

Several cases of supposed Muslim prayers in primary school playgrounds were reported by the city of Nice last week. Illustration

Seven cases of Muslim prayers by CE2 students were reported by the municipality and the rectorate last week. Three would have been wrongly denounced and today questions are being asked about how to communicate these cases.

Le Figaro Nice

Words against words, interpretations against interpretations. After reports of seven cases of Muslim prayers within primary schools in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes) last week, families and unions gave their version of the facts and thus contradicted that of the rectorate and the municipality run by Christian Estrosi (Horizons). But who is telling the truth and will we be able to find out what really happened in these playgrounds?

The three cases during last Thursday’s lunch break at the Pierre-Merle establishment, in the rather popular port district, were allegedly wrongly reported. This is what is stated in Nice morning the father and grandfather of CE2 children (aged 8) incriminated. “The schoolchildren summoned a ghost when they saw a white tarpaulin stuck in the branches of a tree in the yard”explains the first. “My grandson told me that he had seen the white lady and that he and his friends asked him to come”tells the second to the regional daily, not without emotion and annoyance.

A source close to this affair also explains categorically to Figaro “that the kids were just playing around a tree” and that in no case was it a collective prayer. Above all, the families presented themselves as atheists, even if this would not be the case for one of them, we are told. Was it just child’s play? On the set of BFM Nice Côte d’Azur, the director Natacha Chicot had however brushed aside this theory. “When children justify prayer through an argument that is not that of a child, we cannot let that pass”, she declared. Contacted again, the rectorate and the town hall of Nice maintain the nature of the reports. Three children from this school would have knelt on their coats and mimed movements with their arms from top to bottom. And the rectorate adds that “the 2004 law states that all prayers are prohibited”.


The three families were received on Friday at Nice Town Hall, two of them by Christian Estrosi himself. “It clearly appears that they have demonstrated no desire to infringe the principles of secularism and the Republic”, had wanted to reassure the mayor immediately in a press release. Insufficient to remove the ambiguities surrounding this situation, the children and their families still feeling targeted for no reason. “It hurt usthe grandfather complained again in Nice morning. Christian Estrosi issued a statement that continued to accuse our children.”

The Federation of Parents’ Councils of the Alpes-Maritimes (FCPE 06) also deplored the way in which these cases were managed. “It’s International Children’s Rights Day (Monday November 20, Editor’s note) but we are very worried about the comments made by the rector and the mayor of Niceexplains Khadija El Ouahabi, the local representative. They rushed to denounce an attack on secularism, but it is not through a press release or on TV sets that we do it.” She thus denounces “the absence of verification and the time of contradiction”, as during classic disciplinary councils. Many parents would have said to themselves “shocked” by this way of proceeding, she adds. For Olivier Salerno (CGT), it is nothing more and nothing less than the “defamation”. “In a particularly tense context, it is irresponsible”he adds on his X account (formerly Twitter).


The Nice municipality and its deputy for Education, Jean-Luc Gagliolo, claim to only be applying the procedure. A municipal agent – on extracurricular time (like the canteen), the responsibility lies with the city – made a report to the town hall, which then summoned the parents even if it was only a matter of suspicion. So why publicize them? “We would have been criticized for not having been transparent, everyone has the right to know”, defends the chosen one. He is also annoyed by accusations of political exploitation: “We do not have to be ashamed of what we are doing in terms of secularism, Nice received the Golden Marianne and is putting in place a catalog of measures.” In June, several similar cases were also reported.

The deputy of the 1D constituency, Éric Ciotti, was quick to criticize his best enemy Christian Estrosi upon reading the words of the families, seeing “gross manipulation”. “Children and parents have been unfairly singled out. Politics and permanent communication do not justify everything”he added in another message on “I don’t understand why this provokes so many comments…”saddens Jean-Luc Gagliolo.

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