French mayor retreats after suspending fasting Muslim camp counselors

August 1, 2012

(A boy takes part in a prayer at Strasbourg's new Grand Mosque, August 1, 2011. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

A French mayor has revoked the suspension of four Muslim camp counselors following an uproar after he said they could not work properly because they might be weakened by their all-day fasting for Ramadan.

Muslim groups threatened to sue the Paris suburb of Gennevilliers for discrimination for recalling the four after an inspector found on July 20 – the first day of the Muslim holy month – that they were not eating or drinking during the day.

Lawyers for the counselors, who had accompanied children from the suburb on a town-sponsored stay at a summer camp in southwestern France, said they might also take the issue to a labor court.

Potential weakness due to Ramadan is also an issue at the London Olympics, where more than 3,000 Muslim athletes are competing. Some have delayed their fast until after the Games while others are fasting as they would any other year.

Muslim leaders presented the case as an issue of religious liberty, while the town’s Communist mayor Jacques Bourgoin insisted his concern was only for the safety of the campers.

“This is a discriminatory act,” said Abdallah Zekri of the French Muslim Council told BFM TV. “France has religious liberty, it is a fundamental freedom and it must be respected.”

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