Third Muslim high school opens in France

5th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

DECINES, France, March 5, 2007 (AFP) - France's third Muslim high school opened on Monday in a suburb of the eastern city of Lyon, welcoming its first students after a months-long battle with the local education authorities.

DECINES, France, March 5, 2007 (AFP) - France's third Muslim high school opened on Monday in a suburb of the eastern city of Lyon, welcoming its first students after a months-long battle with the local education authorities.

Named after a ninth-century Arab scholar, the Al-Kindi private school initially opened to one entry-year class and will eventually cater to 140 students aged 11 to 16, making it the largest Muslim school in France.

Built on a former industrial site opposite a housing project in Decines, the school got the green light to open last month after the French Higher Education Council (CSE) overruled a decision by the Lyon education board.

The board prevented the school from opening in September, citing concerns about safety as well as the teaching and management credentials of the team behind the project -- concerns both dismissed by the CSE.

"We are very pleased, this is going to soothe tensions. The judiciary has enabled us to reach a compromise. We will continue like this, in full respect for the laws of the Republic," Rachid Guergour, head of the Lyon Mosque, told reporters outside the school.

"I will cry victory when I see our students' results" in the high-school exams. "That is what matters," added Hakim Chergui, deputy head of the Al-Kindi association behind the project.

France's first Islamic high school opened in the northeast Paris suburb of Aubervilliers in 2001, and now caters to around 100 pupils. A second followed in 2003 in the northern city of Lille and currently has 80 students.

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.

It is also a way to ensure their children are taught "proper Islam, not the kind taught in basement mosques", parents say.

Not all girl pupils at Al-Kindi wear the headscarf however, and Mohammed Minta, the local imam in charge of religious education classes insists students will be free to dress as they please.

The 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.

"I was very disappointed by the public system. Here the teaching is of a higher quality, with a better structure. We hope it becomes an elite school," said Tarek Bejaoui, walking his daughter Zayneb to school.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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