Elite Islamic school is hate hotbed, says teacher


A teacher has accused his former employer, one of France's top Muslim schools, of being a hotbed of fundamentalism and antisemitism.

Soufiane Zitouni, a prominent Muslim intellectual, has resigned from his post at Averroes Islamic High School in Lille in the wake of the jihadi murders of Jews and political cartoonists in Paris last month, saying that the school fostered extremism.

In February, Mr Zitouni published an article in daily newspaper Liberation accusing the school of playing a double game. He wrote: "On the one hand they pose as moderate and law-abiding Muslims in order to assuage the public opinion and enjoy government financial support; on the other hand, they are engaging in sneaky indoctrination in political Islam."

In response to the article, the school announced that it would sue Mr Zitouni, 47, a former philosophy teacher, for "private libel".

According to Mr Zitouni, the high school's library did not have any books book by or about Averroes (also known as Ibn Rushd, 1126-1198), the comparatively liberal Spanish Muslim philosopher after whom the school is named. He claimed, however, that the library did contain books by Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss intellectual who is seen as an exponent of the Muslim Brotherhood's views.

Mr Zitouni said that most teachers and pupils tended to support and express radical views on religious or political matters, or to take anti-Jewish prejudice for granted.

"I sensed a turning point had been reached when the school's managers turned a blind eye to two pupils publicly who supported in class the Kouachi brothers [the Charlie Hebdo killers]."

A follower of the Alawiya Sufi order and its chief French leader, Cheikh Khaled Bentounes, Mr Zitouni is both observant and well read in Islamic theology and law. He has contributed to, a flagship Islamic website.

Under French law, private schools, including religious schools, may be granted extensive government support as long as they stick to a national curriculum and hire government-certified teachers.

As of 2014, two elite Muslim schools only have opted to join the government programme - the Averroes High School in Lille and the Al-Kindi High School in Lyons - as compared to 9,000 Catholic schools and 130 Jewish schools.

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