France to stop funding country’s biggest Muslim school

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The French government will end state subsidies for the country’s biggest Muslim high school receiving state funds, authorities said, following controversy over the ideas set out in its teaching.

The move against the Averroes school, founded 20 years ago in the northern city of Lille, follows a recommendation by a consulting commission that examined both its financing and its teaching of Muslim ethics.

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Private schools can receive state subsidies in France under a contract with the government, so long as they are open to all students, and follow the state’s education guidelines.

But the agreement will be cancelled next year and the money cut off, according to a decision made Thursday, the departmental authorities told AFP late Sunday.

According to Le Parisien daily, the commission found irregularities in the school’s management, and its teachings – notably of Muslim ethics – that it judged to be in violation of French republican values.

The paper said that inspectors found teaching was lacking on societal content such as LGBTQ topics, and an excessive emphasis on Islam in courses on religion, to the detriment of other faiths.

Even before the decision was announced, the school said it would lodge an appeal with an administrative court against any defunding move.

The high school of 800 pupils – 400 of whom are covered by the state convention – regularly scores highly in academic standards, but came onto the radar of local authorities after receiving a grant from Qatar in 2014.

National school inspectors said in a 2020 report that they found nothing at odds with national education guidelines.

But the regional prefecture, in a report in November, said it suspected the Averroes school of illicit financing, and giving students access to texts favoring the death penalty for apostasy, or backing gender segregation.

The school was also suspected of unspecified links with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, an extremist organization.

But a lawyer for the school, Joseph Breham, said that “nobody except the prefectural authorities” believed that claim, and that none of the school’s administrators had ever been questioned by police, charged or judged on the basis of that claim.

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