After passing the entrance exam to the police academy, Karim, 24, was rejected simply because he had traces of prostration on his forehead, which means that he regularly performs prayers, which the French police saw as evidence of possible "separatist" tendencies, which they considered an attack on the principle of neutrality, according to the French news site "Mediapart".
It was my childhood dream to join the police "to serve my country and protect its inhabitants," but this young man is still shocked by the decision of the Paris police to reject his application, because he sees it as "discriminatory in the sense of the word, and because it deprives me of the job I always wanted," he told the site.
Karim adds that in 2020, after obtaining a higher technical certificate to join the police, he applied as a security assistant, but after passing all the tests, and after leaving him with only a procedure that he thought was "easy formality" of ethical investigation to obtain the approval of the governorate and enroll in the police academy, his application was rejected.
During his interview with an officer from the Poissy (Yveline) police station, Karim was surprised that he focused on inquiring about the spot on his forehead, which he explained by saying, "I answered with all transparency that I am a Muslim, and I have been praying since high school," explaining to Mediapart that this stain appears on the foreheads of some Muslims as a result of their sensitive skin.
Just seven months after that interview, Karim says that he received a letter from the prefecture informing him that his application to join the police had been rejected, and that "the appointment of public officials and contractual agents of the national police may be preceded by administrative investigations aimed at verifying that the conduct of the natural persons concerned does not interfere with the exercise of the stipulated functions."
The letter explained that through the interview, it was found that there was reason to doubt about the duty of neutrality, which is essential for a police officer, which means that the application to join her was rejected.
After this refusal, Karim says, he asked for new arguments and presented numerous testimonies proving that he "has nothing to do with terrorism or Islamic extremism," and that those who witnessed him included a police major with whom he plays sports, and his colleagues at the Apple store where he works.
All of them confirmed that he is a serious person and an employee who is respected by customers and appreciated by his management, and even presented his school report sheets that paint a picture of a hardworking, rigorous and willing student.
Despite Karim's evidence, the police prefecture insisted on her decision but, this time, in vague terms, "We regret to tell you that we can only express a negative opinion and oppose your approval."
To find out the exact reasons for this refusal, Karim contacted the governor, who assured him that the stain on his forehead was the reason for the refusal, which led him to appeal this decision to the administrative court, so that he could finally read more accurate arguments from the police chief.
"The fact that such a sign appears on Karim's forehead, which he cannot conceal, constitutes a clear manifestation of his religious beliefs, a manifestation that will continue during the exercise of the functions that will be entrusted to him, and moreover, the presence of such a mark on such a young man raises questions and reveals a potential danger to separatist ideology," the police report says.
This means, according to Mediapart, that the only reason this candidate is prevented from entering the academy is because he adheres to the teachings of his religion, which is purely discriminatory, according to Karim.
But Mediapart said the discriminatory treatment of Karim was in line with what former French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in 2019, which included elements before the Senate, which he said was indicative of extremism, including "exempting the beard, refusing to shake hands with women, and having a spot in the middle of the forehead."
At the time, the minister was subjected to sharp criticism and even ridicule by many.
However, to Mediapart's surprise, the administrative court ratified this decision on April 21, 2023, ignoring the accusation of "separatism" and focusing on the "duty of impartiality."
But Karim in no way acted in a way that contradicted the principle of secularism, and that is precisely the essence of the dispute, and what he is faulting is an inherent condition and not a guilt he committed, his lawyer told Mediapart.
Karim appealed to the Administrative Court of Appeal and to the Rights Defense Committee to lift the ban on him to "become a police officer" and to protect the rights of "all Muslims who are discriminated against simply because they practice their religion."