Source: Associated Press
On September 2, 2003 the Associated Press reported on the opening of France's first Muslim high school: "Only a dozen students--six boys and six girls--showed up at the mosque where France's first Muslim high school began holding classes on Tuesday. Despite the small enrollment, school officials said they expect big things from the 10th graders at the private Averroes Lycee an experiment aimed at reconciling the nation's deep commitment to secularism with the demands of its second-largest religious group...The high school, located on the third floor of Lille's Al-Imane mosque in a gritty neighborhood of the northern city, follows France's national education program. But the curriculum also includes courses in Islamic culture and Arabic language and emphasizes creating a Muslim atmosphere, officials said. The girls said they chose to attend the Averroes Lycee simply to be able to wear their traditional Muslim headscarves, forbidden in most public schools... France, taking in immigrants from its former North African colonies, has the largest Muslim community in Western Europe, estimated at 5 million, and Islam is the nation's second religion, after Roman Catholicism. There are hundreds of private Catholic schools, but the first Muslim school, a junior high school in Aubervilliers, outside Paris, was established only two years ago...Mosque Rector Amar Lasfar said the new school will inculcate students with 'an Islam that respects the values of the republic.'"