As schools opened on Monday on the French-owned island of Corsica, five hijab-clad Muslim mothers were accosted and prevented from entering a nursery school by two other parents.
The incident occurred when the women were dropping off their children to the nursery in Bonifacio, a district on the southern tip of Corsica.
Local prosecutor Eric Bouillard confirmed the mothers were “stopped by two men, two brothers, who thought it wasn't right that their children are not allowed to wear emblems of their religion at school and yet these women could enter with their veils.”
The men wanted an explanation because their children were chastised if they were seen wearing the crucifix. However, although French schools do prohibit their students from wearing religious symbols, there is no such ban on parents.
Mayor Jean-Charles Orsucci said his education authorities had “intervened” and allowed the women normal entry into the school. Police were also sent to the school to ensure the situation calmed down.
“There was no violence, no threats and therefore no laws broken," said Bouillard.
In 2010, France became the first European country to ban the “niqab,” the Islamic face veil worn by Muslim women in public, six years after banning the headscarf and other religious symbols in schools. However, it is not illegal to cover one's head in public.
Intercommunal tensions in France have been growing of late, especially since the massacre of 86 people by a lorry driver in Nice on July 14.
A burkini ban by local authorities further added fuel to the fire, despite the fact the full-body swimsuit is worn by a very small community of Muslim women. The case landed in the highest French court and the verdict was passed to suspend the ban since it violated its citizens’ basic freedom. Many politicians in France are still not convinced by the court’s decision.