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Fired for praying at work, French man seeks justice

A bus driver’s religious deed was seen as a radical act. He’s trying to prove that he’s a regular Muslim.
In 2017, a Muslim bus driver performed one of his daily prayers while his vehicle was empty. He was tasked with carrying the flight crew of the French national carrier, Air France. As the crew members found him praying inside a locked bus, they immediately filed a police complaint against him.

In October 2020, the driver lost his job on the grounds of praying at work, an act the government viewed as “serious radicalisation,” according to the victim’s lawyer, Sefen Guez Guez, who was interviewed by Anadolu Agency.

The bus driver, who wished to be identified by his pseudonym Anis, informed his attorney that his accreditation was revoked and he could not enter Charles de Gaulle airport, where he had worked for16 years.

Anis has taken the decision to court, where he’s trying to prove that he’s one of the millions of regular Muslims who perform daily prayers.

He has four children and wants to get back to work as soon as possible. Guez says several legal experts have submitted their views in the court. They advise the police to reverse the decision.

“Open Islamophobia”

The court will announce its final decision on March 25. Guez says that either racism or ignorance has led to the initial decision, which was made on the false pretext of his client being accused of “serious radicalisation”.

“Police chief sees a religious requirement that is performed everyday by regular Muslims a threat to public safety. It’s open Islamophobia,” Guez said.

Guez says Anis’s firing in October 2020 coincided with the time Muslims were collectively put on the spot after the brutal killing of teacher Samuel Paty.

Around 6 million Muslims in France sensed a sudden uptick in social tensions in October last year, soon after President Emmanuel Macron openly criticised Islam, calling it a religion “in crisis.”

Shortly after, France’s parliament lower house approved a law to fight extremism and “Islamist separatism” that the government bills as a riposte to religious groups attempting to undermine France’s secular traditions. But critics say it breaches religious freedom.

On Tuesday, twenty-five non-governmental organisations from eleven different countries called on European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to take action. In a letter, groups said the European Court of Justice should investigate France for systematic, state-sponsored discrimination against Muslims.

For Guez, Anis’s termination reveals the vindictive mindset of the French state that considers Muslims as de facto threats.

“He could be warned about not to perform prayers at work, but being fired for praying is not normal. The month of Ramadan is due. Can it be claimed that my client’s choice of skipping eating his sandwich at lunch break is a threat to public safety, so his accreditation must be revoked?” Guez says, referring to the month of Ramadan when Muslims around the world observe fast from sunrise to sundown.

“We’re confident that the justice system will see that it’s a wrong position to take and reinstate my client’s rights,” he said.

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