French plan for the suburbs runs into trouble

President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to be at odds with outspoken urban affairs minister Fadela Amara, over the release of a master plan to help struggling youth in high-immigrant suburbs. The plan, which was promised by Sarkozy during his election campaign, was set to be unveiled in January 22nd in the Lyon suburb of Vaulx-en-Velin, but he said he planned to unroll his government’s proposals at the later date of early February, and perhaps in a different town. Amara responded that the change doesn’t affect anything, and an outline of the plan will be revealed as scheduled.

Imams at Center of the Regional Council of the Muslim Faith

By Azzedine Gaci, {Head of the Conseil R_gional du Culte Musulman (CRCM), R_gion Rh_ne Alpes and teacher/researcher at the _cole sup_rieure de chimie physique _lectronique of Lyon (CPE Lyon)} At the very most, France has no more than 2,000 mosques and places of Islamic worship. Daily prayers and Friday services are led by approximately 1,500 to 1,800 imams across the country. When created in May 2003, the Conseil Fran_ais du Culte Musulman (CFCM) was supposed to prioritize a program for overseeing imams in France. Internal quarrels, however, have dominated the organization and the demand for this oversight has calmed in the political sphere. Since 2003, four ministers of Interior (among them Nicolas Sarkozy) and Muslim religious leaders have been responsible for monitoring the situation. Each time a minister has brought attention to the issue, however, there has been little follow-up.

France’s Third Muslim School Opens

France’s third Muslim high school welcomed its first students on Monday, March 5, after a months-long battle with local education authorities. “We are very pleased,” Rachid Guergour, head of the Lyon Mosque, told reporters outside the Al-Kindi private school in the Decines suburb of the eastern city of Lyon, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP). The school, named after Muslim philosopher Yusuf Ya`qoub ibn Ishaq Al-Kindi (801-873), initially opened to one entry-year class. It will eventually cater to 140 students, making it the largest Muslim school in France. The school will cost some 700,000 euros a year to operate. It will mainly teach state curricula in addition to Qur’an, jurisprudence, Islamic civilization and history. 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 school was banned from opening its classes last September after the Academy of Lyon had argued that the school failed to meet hygiene and safety standards. But the Administrative Court in Lyon dismissed the Academy’s rationale as unsubstantiated. Victory Hakim Chergui, deputy head of the Al-Kindi association behind the project, hailed the school’s opening. “I will cry victory when I see our students’ results in the high-school exams. That is what matters,” he said. Guergour said that the Muslim school will be abiding by the French laws. “The judiciary has enabled us to reach a compromise,” he said. “We will continue like this, in full respect for the laws of the Republic.” Private Muslim schools were an urgent demand by many Muslim families in France, especially after the state banned hijab and religious symbols at public schools. A 2004 religious insignia law forced many French Muslim girls to enroll at schools in neighboring European countries or at private schools at home. However, not all girl pupils at the Muslim school wear hijab. Mohammed Minta, the local imam in charge of religious education classes, insists students will be free to dress as they please. France’s first Muslim high school opened in the northeast Paris suburb of Aubervilliers in 2001, and now caters to around 100 pupils.

French Court Backs Muslim School

LYON – A French court in the east-central city of Lyon has overturned a decision by the city’s top educational authority to close a Muslim secondary school. “Justice is served,” the school’s principal Nazir Hakim told on Tuesday, February 20. “We were confident that the French judiciary would give us back our right to open the school under relevant laws that guarantee freedom of establishing private schools in accordance with the state by-laws,” added Hakim, in an upbeat mood. The renovated building in the Lyon suburb of D’cines will be fully operating next year and will mainly teach state curricula in addition to Qur`an, jurisprudence, Islamic civilization and history. Private Muslim schools were an urgent demand by many Muslim families in France, especially after the state banned hijab and religious symbols at public schools.

Religious authorities from Lyon against gay marriage

The Archbishop of Lyon, cardinal Philippe Barbarin, and representants of the Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Orthodox and Armenian cults signed a text that asserts the sustainable nature of the marriage: “it is important to have clear ideas about this key-point of reference for humanity. Experiences show that we pay the price for the destruction of nature. We don’t have to destroy humanity anymore, which is at the heart of the creation”. ‘ As for adoption, signatories denouce the lie that remains in the assertment that “it is indifferent for a child to grow up with or without a father or a mother”. ‘ ‘ This document constitutes the first interreligious declaration on this matter.

Lyon Tribunal Refuses to Stop Progress on Muslim High School in Decines

The administrative tribunal of Lyon, presented with the opposition of the rectorate to the opening of a Muslim junior high and high school in Decines (Rhone region), can refuse to make a decision, leaving the way clear for the opening of the second and largest Muslim scholastic establishment in France. Only the Academic Council of National Education (CAEN) or the Superior Educational Council (CSE) (in the case of an appeal) can make the decision to authorize or prohibit the opening of a high school, said the Lyon tribunal Wednesday. The CSE sent the rectorate’s case to the Lyon tribunal in Novmeber, having decided that it oculd not oppose the opening of a high school except for questions of sanitation or morality, which were not raised by the rectorate. The Lyon rectorate opposes the opening of the Muslim school for reasons of security and becuase of the supposed absence of effective direction.

Islam, Ethnicity and the Banlieues

The most astonishing thing about the recent riots was the surprise of the media, in France as elsewhere, at this outbreak of violence. For indeed, violence in the suburbs is nothing new. In the 1980s, the suburbs of Paris and Lyon were similarly set aflame. And in November of 2004, the violence of the suburbs broke out in the very heart of Paris when two rival gangs clashed on the Champs Elysées. Nor is the isolation of French youth a new phenomenon. Since the 1981 “rodeo riots” in the Lyon suburb Les Minguettes, social and economic conditions in the suburbs have only deteriorated, despite the often generous funding of urban development projects. It is not sufficient, however, to attribute these outbreaks of violence solely to factors of social and economic marginality. This marginality is exacerbated by a general context of urban degradation: a degradation, furthermore, which affects a very specific sector of the population. That is, the crisis of the banlieues primarily concerns first- and second-generation immigrants from the former colonies of the Maghreb. This population has frequently been treated as a separate case, not only in terms of the history and conditions of immigration, but also in terms of the politics of integration. This constant exclusion results in the fact that the issues of poverty, ethnicity, and Islam tend to be conflated, both in current political discourse and in political practice. The recent violence is but the direct consequence of the constant amalgamation of these three separate issues.

France Deports Algerian Imam For Anti-Women Statements

Paris (AFP) – Wegen islamisch-fundamentalistischer und frauenfeindlicher _u_erungen schiebt Frankreich einen algerischen Imam ab. Wie die Profektur in Lyon mitteilte, wurde der Vorbeter Abdelkader Bouziane am Dienstagmorgen festgenommen. Nach Angaben seines Anwaltes sollte der Imam noch am Nachmittag mit einem Linienflug von Lyon nach Algerien gebracht werden. Der Pariser Staatsrat als h_chstes franz_sisches Verwaltungsgericht hatte die Ausweisung am Vortag endg_ltig f_r gerechtfertigt erkl_rt. Bouziane war am 21. April ein erstes Mal des Landes verwiesen worden, nach einer Entscheidung des Verwaltungsgerichts Lyon jedoch kurz darauf zur_ckgekehrt.

Headscarf and French Civil Servant

A court has ruled that a French civil servant who wore an Islamic headscarf on the job committed a “particularly serious offense” and may face disciplinary action because she violated the separation of church and state. Nadjet ben Abdallah, a 33-year-old work inspector in the central city of Lyon, had argued that a disciplinary committee’s decision to sanction her for wearing the headscarf at work was unjust. The administrative court in Lyon disagreed and in a decision released Friday, the court said the woman was wrong to go to work “wearing an item of clothing that ostentatiously expresses membership in a particular religion.” France, which has a large Muslim community, has long had an emotionally charged debate about wearing headscarves in public schools. Girls who refuse to remove headscarves if asked have triggered strikes by teachers and an outcry from many others, particularly politicians. French President Jacques Chirac has set up a commission to study how France’s secular ethic should be applied, an attempt to satisfy a changing, increasingly diverse France without compromising secularism.