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Published: Sunday April 6, 2014 MYT 7:40:02 AM
Updated: Sunday April 6, 2014 MYT 7:41:10 AM

France's far-right to ban faith-based school lunch options

PARIS (Reuters) - Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said on Friday it would prevent schools from offering special lunches to Muslim pupils in the 11 towns it won in local elections, saying such arrangements were contrary to France's secular values.

France's republic has a strict secular tradition enforceable by law, but faith-related demands have risen in recent years, especially from the country's five-million-strong Muslim minority, the largest in Europe.

"We will not accept any religious demands in school menus," Le Pen told RTL radio. "There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that's the law."

The anti-immigrant National Front has consistently bemoaned the rising influence of Islam in French public life.

France has seen periodic controversies over schools that substitute beef or chicken for pork from menus to cater to Muslim children. Some of the FN's new mayors have complained there are too many halal shops in their towns.

The party won control of 11 town halls and a large district in the port city of Marseille in municipal elections on Sunday, more than double its record from the 1990s.

Le Pen hailed the victory as showing the party had finally established itself as France's third political force behind ruling Socialists and mainstream conservatives, and predicts a strong showing in May's European Parliament elections.

(This story was refiled to fix typo in 4th paragraph to public from pubic)

(Reporting By Alexandria Sage; editing by Mark John)

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