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France

Corsicans object to children singing Lennon’s ’Imagine’ in Arabic

© Pascal Pavani / AFP I Archive picture of a French primary school

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2015-06-18

A Corsican primary school has cancelled a children’s fete after parents threatened to disrupt the event because pupils were due to sing verses of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ in Arabic.

The school in Prunelli-di-Fiumorbo in the north of the island – where even French culture and language is often fiercely resisted – had planned to have children sing Lennon’s famously pacifist (and anti-religion) song in five different languages, including French, Corsican, English, Spanish and Arabic.

Some parents at the school, which serves a district with a large immigrant population, objected to the idea of their children singing along in Arabic.

Graffiti was daubed outside the school earlier this week reading “Arabi Fora!” (Arabs out!) and “Lingua Corsa (Corsican language) while a small group of parents threatened to disrupt the fete if the singing went ahead.

Speaking on France 5 TV Thursday, Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said it was “terrible” that parents had objected to their children singing in Arabic.

“It is our policy to develop the learning of foreign languages in schools and Arabic is obviously one of those languages,” Vallaud-Belkacem said. “We need to have a diversity of languages in schools.”

“The fete has been cancelled for public safety reasons,” she said, adding that a criminal inquiry was underway to examine the graffiti, as well as the threats and comments posted on social media.

Prunelli-di-Fiumorbo mayor Pierre Siméon de Buochberg said he had received a “large” number of messages from Corsica and mainland France that objected to the plan to have primary school children singing anything in Arabic.

He also told reporters that the town was making a formal complaint to police about the threats, and that an open meeting planned for Thursday had been cancelled “because the security situation cannot be guaranteed”.

Date created : 2015-06-18

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