French Muslim suspended in Ramadan fasting row

Parisian children boating - file pic It is claimed that fasting conflicted with the adults' duty to protect children

A local council near Paris has suspended four sports instructors for observing the Ramadan fast while in charge of children at a summer camp.

One of the four called the decision "unacceptable" and said they were considering taking the matter to court.

The mayor of Gennevilliers said the instructors' refusal to eat or drink amounted to breach of contract and put the children's safety at risk.

Equal rights campaigners say fasting is a matter of individual freedom.

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris reports that some companies have found a decline in productivity during Ramadan but in most cases employees are quite capable of performing their work.

The Gennevilliers authorities did not have an issue with the way the camp was run until administrators sat down to lunch and noticed that four sports instructors were abstaining.

In the holy month of Ramadan Muslims are expected to fast from dawn until sunset.

One of the suspended instructors said it was "unfair and unacceptable", the French news agency AFP reports. The instructor, named only as Samir, said: "You can't force someone to eat - you can't prove that missing a meal deprives you of some of your faculties."

Explaining its decision, the council said that three years ago a child was seriously injured in a road accident while travelling in a vehicle driven by a female instructor who was not eating.

The French Council of the Muslim Faith said it would support the instructors in their dispute with the council.

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