First Muslim High School in France Opens in Lille

September 9, 2003

Source: The New York Times

On September 9, 2003, The New York Times ran an article on the opening of France's first Muslim high school, focusing on the issues this raises in a secular state: "The challenge for France is to preserve the country's secular identity as codified under a century-old law on the separation of church and state, meet the demands of its second-largest religious community and discourage religious and ethnic separatism all at the same time...No social issue is more pressing for France's center-right government than the integration of the country's Muslims into the fabric of French society. Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has warned that France might have to pass a new law imposing secular rule, and President Jacques Chirac has formed a commission to make recommendations on the issue of the nation's secular identity by the end of the year. The creation of Muslim schools financed and monitored by the state — like other private religious schools — is intended to provide Muslim youth with the same core education that celebrates the republic's values as public schools. But there are concerns that it could contribute to the isolation and even radicalization of Muslim students as well."