France's biggest Muslim school kicks off first year

4th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

DECINES, France, Sept 4, 2007 (AFP) - France's largest Muslim high school, one of only three in the country, opened its doors to students on Tuesday for its first full school year.

DECINES, France, Sept 4, 2007 (AFP) - France's largest Muslim high school, one of only three in the country, opened its doors to students on Tuesday for its first full school year. 

More than 170 students aged 11 to 16 have enrolled at the private Al-Kindi high school in a suburb of the southeastern city of Lyon.

The Muslim school welcomed its first batch of pupils, a single entry-year class, in March after a months-long battle with authorities who questioned the credentials of its staff.

"We are delighted, we know that our son will be taken good care of," said Hatem Hassem, walking his son Mohammed-Amin to the school gates.

"We have always gone for private education. But the religious aspect is secondary. If it hadn't been this one, we would have put him in a local bilingual school," he said.

France has two other Islamic high schools, in the northeast Paris suburb of Aubervilliers with around 100 pupils and in the northern city of Lille with 80.

For many families in France, a Muslim private school is a way around the 2004 ban on religious symbols, including Muslim headscarves, in public schools -- designed to reaffirm France's commitment to state secularism.

Named after a ninth-century Arab scholar, the Al-Kindi school, which costs around 1,200 euros (1,550 dollars) per child per year, will follow the French national curriculum, with an optional two hours of classes on Islamic culture.

One in six French schoolchildren attend 8,500 state-subsidised private Catholic schools, including many from non-religious families who see them as key to a better education.

AFP

Subject: French news

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