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French National Assembly calls for religious education in public schools


PARIS (RNS) France's National Assembly has passed an education bill that includes a clause calling for religion and its history to be taught in French public schools.

The bill, which still must be examined by the French Senate before becoming law, also makes learning France's national anthem, "La Marseillaise," obligatory in French primary schools.

The religious education measure passed March 2 appears surprising in a country that last year banned public school students from wearing head scarves, crosses and other conspicuous religious symbols to class.

But like many other countries in Western Europe, France is facing seemingly paradoxical trends of increasing secularity and increasing acts of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.

Many experts attribute a large part of a five-year rise in attacks against Jewish institutions and Jews in France to disenfranchised French Muslim youths angry over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.