At Averroès Muslim High School in Lille “we feel betrayed and humiliated”

Averroès high school says it has nothing to hide. Former teacher Soufiane Zitouni accused certain students of “cultural anti-Semitism” and others of harboring Islamist tendencies. Following the accusations, the school’s director opened its doors to Metro News.

Even as two inspectors of the academy of Lille came to verify that the school continued to respect its contract with the state, the students appeared carefree and enjoyed themselves in the hallways.

“This inspection, we asked for it,” said the school’s assistant director Eric Dufour. “It’s important that the truth be established.”

“Soufiane Zitouni never told us what he told the media,” stated a current teacher. “We don’t understand his attitude.” Even students were shocked. “We feel betrayed and humiliated,” said Zainab, a first-year student. “How could he say he spent five challenging months here?” His friend Sondos added, “It’s hypocritical on his part. He was always smiling. And why would he talk about his experience? Are we in a zoo?”

Dufour admitted he had one encounter during which the teacher complained. “When I asked him the names of his students who held tendentious beliefs, he refused to specify and left without us being able to take the necessary measures,” he said.

For the moment, the high school affirms its intention to press charges for defamation. The teacher, who confirmed having resigned from his post, is on sick leave until February 21. The classes are now taught by Stephen Urani, who says he is “happy and enthusiastic” to be at Averroès.

Alleged French radical Muslim killed by police


Hakim Bengladghem, 39, was killed on March 27 following a police vehicle chase and bullet exchange in which the 39-year-old was lethally hit. The incident happened on the highway connecting Lille and Belgium. Bengladghem a former French Legionnaire, has been under police surveillance and is suspected to have planned an attack against a Belgian special police unit. Following his death, the police has found a large amount of arms in his Brussel’s apartment.


Muslims in Lille express shock and concern following Swiss minaret ban

This article claims that Muslims in the Northern French city of Lille feel that the recent Swiss ban on minarets sends a very bad message for the acceptance of Muslims in Europe. One man interviewed pointed to the positive incorporation of the Mosque of Paris’ minaret within local architecture.

The burqa/niqab commission in France auditions less-willing participants

As the French commission on niqab/burqa-wearing, led by André Gerin, heads to Lille, journalists expect more heated discussion as two niqab-wearing women and several imams will be auditioned.

Mahmoud Doua, imam and member of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF or l’Union des organisations islamiques de France) called for French Muslims to conform to “French culture.” Rémi Schwartz, spokesperson from the Stasi Commission in 2003 also commented on the importance of respecting individual choice. Others noted the complicated possibility of banning these coverings entirely.

Schools bode new path for Islam in France

News Agencies – September 24, 2009

As Islam in France becomes more established with a growing number of cemeteries and mosques, new attention is being given to private Islamic religious schools.

Three new Islamic schools have recently been announced – one in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, another in Marseille and a third in Toulouse. Most of these schools have been launched with support from the UOIF (the Union of French Islamic Organizations or the Union des organisations islamiques de France).

There are currently 650 students attending Islamic schools in France. The Averroès school in Lille is the only Muslim school in the country to have a formal contract with the state, and whose teachers are paid by the state.

French Appeals Court Restores Marriage in Virginity Case

A French appeals court in Douai has overturned a lower tribunal of Lille from April 1st 2008 that had annulled the marriage of two Muslims because the bride misrepresented her virginity. The marriage was annulled when the court held that the woman had lied over what was considered “an essential quality,” and therein the marriage contract was invalid.

In the wake of outrage expressed by feminists and human rights activists, the court ruled that virginity “is not an essential quality in that its absence has no repercussion on matrimonial life.” Others expressed concern that the original ruling was an affront to France’s fiercely protected secularism. In a petition sent to French Justice Minister Rachida Dati in June, 150 members of the European Parliament said an annulment in the case would “only comfort fundamentalists in their archaic fight whilst the main barrier against this fanaticism should precisely be the law.”

The new ruling means that the marriage, which neither husband nor wife wishes to continue, stands. A court official aptly noted, “We’re back to the situation before the first ruling.”

See full-text articles:

International Herald Tribune

Le Figaro


The Globe and Mail

The National Post

Man Who Hit his Wife who Removed her Headscarf Sentenced to Six Months of Prison

A Marseille man who punched his wife in the face, fracturing her nose, because she removed her headscarf because of the heat was condemned to at least six months in prison. The couple, who live in Lille, France and were married in November 2007, were on holiday in Marseille. The 24 year-old French female victim stated, “I can’t handle the heat. I had my headscarf but I wasn’t covering my neck.” She claims to have explained to her husband that in Islam, a husband cannot tell his wife what to do.

According to Le Figaro, 2007 saw an increase of 31% over 2004 of reported domestic violence in the country.

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Islam Pluriel

Le Figaro

Muslim Couple in Lille Upset with Appeal on their Marriage Annulment

A French couple who accepted a court annulment of their marriage when the woman admitted she was not a virgin on their wedding day are upset with the state’s appeal of their case. Led by Rachida Dati, the Justice Ministry has requested that state prosecutors file an appeal against the ruling annulling the marriage of the Muslim couple in Lille. While the verdict was given in April, public furor over the case has emerged only in the last two weeks when the groom complained his bride was not a virgin, as she had promised prior to their marriage. The April ruling did not mention the couple’s religious beliefs. Dati was booed in the parliament last week for insisting that while the annulment should go before an appeal court that the ruling was legally sound.

The Training Of Imams Eludes The Control Of The State

The recent efforts to bring forth an Islam “_ la fran_aise” is running up against resistance from the countries of origin of French Muslim immigrants, anxious to preserve their influence. The training of imams in France would be the key to deveoping an Islam integrated into the Republic; a French Islam. This training remains precarious, not controlled and more and more dispersed. In Lille, the ex-president of the Muslim Federation of France (FNMF), is about to open the Avicenna Institute, for the purpose of training imams. {(continued below in French)} LA FORMATION des imams devait _tre la cl_ de vo_te d’un islam apais_, int_gr_ _ la R_publique, d’un islam fran_ais. Elle reste pr_caire, peu contr_l_e et de plus en plus dispers_e. _ Lille, l’ancien pr_sident de la F_d_ration des musulmans de France (FNMF, proche du Maroc) vient d’ouvrir l’institut Avicenne. Mohammed Bechari a longtemps si_g_ au CFCM o_ on peinait _ le classer. _vinc_ depuis de cette instance, il s’est repli_ sur ce projet d’institut, profitant de ses liens avec les pays du Golfe au sein de la Ligue islamique mondiale pour obtenir un financement. Le Qatar et la Libye ont promis d’assurer les 330 000 euros de fonctionnement annuel de l’institut, sans s’immiscer dans les contenus. La mairie de Lille a fourni le b_timent en plein centre-ville et sign_ un bail emphyt_otique. _ Un coup de pouce de mon amie Mar_tine Aubry qui n’a pas besoin de _cela pour obtenir les voix des musulmans _, assure Mohammed Bechari, qui entretient depuis longtemps des liens avec le PS local. R_alit_s de la soci_t_ occidentale Samedi dernier, une douzaine d’_l_ves ont suivi leur premier cours, surtout des filles voil_es, qui _tudient par ailleurs. _ On cherche _ mieux comprendre l’islam et _ enrichir nos connaissances. On viendra _ l’institut le week-end et le soir _, ont-elles expliqu_. _ moyen terme, _ des cadres religieux _(imams et aum_niers) seront aussi form_s en langue fran_aise, initi_s _ l’_ducation civique et dot_s des outils pour faciliter l’int_gration dans la R_publique la_que fran__aise _, explique Mohammed Bechari, qui entend bien participer _ l’avenir de l’islam de France. Dans une logique plus acad_mique, des universitaires veulent mettre _ profit le concordat pour monter une universit_ priv_e de sciences islamiques _ Strasbourg, autour du sp_cialiste Francis Messner et d’intervenants venus d’universit_s islamiques. Ils se sont r_unis la semaine derni_re pour des journ_es de r_flexion. Le projet d_marre seulement et pourrait incarner un islam plus savant qu’adapt_ aux n_cessit_s des communaut_s. Enfin, _ Lyon, le centre Sh_tib_ fonctionne depuis septembre, mont_ par des disciples des fr_res Ramadan. Il forme des _ cadres _ musulmans, dont beaucoup pourraient _ terme faire office d’imams, dans un islam qui ne fonctionne pas sur le mod_le du clerg_ catholique et autorise le plus savant de l’assembl_e _ _conduire la pri_re. Ces initiatives relancent les craintes de voir importer en _France une formation traditionnelle, parfois fondamentaliste ou imperm_able aux r_alit_s de la _soci_t_ occidentale. Mais surtout marquent l’_chec d’une formation labellis_e que l’_tat appelait de ses voeux. Le Conseil fran_ais du culte musulman (CFCM), cr_e par Nicolas Sarkozy en 2003, devait s’atteler _ ce chantier prioritaire. Mais les pays d’origine ou le mouvement des Fr_res musulmans ne voulaient pas renoncer _ leur _influence, en renon_ant _ envoyer en France leurs imams. De son c_t_, l’administration a bien tent_ d’organiser une fili_re op_rationnelle et transparente, mais sans aller jusqu’au bout, _g_n_e aux entournures par _ le respect de la la_cit_ _. C’est d’ailleurs en son nom que les universitaires de Paris-IV ont refus_ en 2005 d’accueillir des _tudiants religieux dans un cycle profane de connaissance de l’histoire et des institutions fran_aises, faisant capoter les derniers espoirs du minist_re de l’Int_rieur. Pour l’instant, l’immense majorit_ des imams vient de l’_tranger (lire ci-dessous). Et pourtant, la France compte trois centres de formation depuis les ann_es 1990. _ Ces trois centres forment moins d’une dizaine d’imams par an _, estime un conseiller _ l’Int_rieur. Beaucoup d’_tudiants s’inscrivent pour obtenir des papiers et ne terminent pas leur cursus. D’autres dipl_m_s ne parviennent pas _ _vivre de leur minist_re. Face _ ce maelstr_m, les pouvoirs publics ont revu leur strat_gie, en contr_lant les pr_ches a posteriori, dans les mosqu_es. Mais l’enjeu d’un islam _clair_ d_passe largement la question des imams. Chaque ann_e, des dizaines de milliers d’enfants suivent des cours d’arabe ou d’_ducation coranique dans la plus totale opacit_. Par ailleurs, la diffusion d’un islam fran_ais repose aussi largement sur les leaders associatifs, qui discutent au quotidien avec les jeunes. La profusion d’instituts pourrait cr_er des cadres instruits, mais aussi des cadres adeptes d’un islam plus rigoriste que celui qui _tait pratiqu_ par la g_n_ration pr_c_dente.