Can the Averroès high school in Lille, the main Muslim high school under contract in France, continue to be financed by public funds? It is on this question that the lawyer representing the prefecture and the lawyers of the Averroès high school debated on Wednesday January 24 before the administrative court of Lille.
The latter had filed an interim suspension appeal at the beginning of January aimed at suspending the effects of the decision of the prefect of the North, who had decided on December 7 to terminate the association contract linking the Averroès high school to the State. This emergency procedure was introduced while awaiting a court judgment on the merits, which will later decide whether or not to annul the prefectural decision.
In front of a packed courtroom, the applicants’ lawyers – the Averroès association, the social and economic committee as well as the high school parents’ association – first had to convince them of the merits of their request, arguing both on the urgency to rule quickly and on the fact that there is a “serious doubt” concerning the legality of the prefectural decision. “This termination decision is a death sentence from a financial point of view” for the establishment, launched Vincent Brengarth, lawyer for the Averroès association, also arguing that this measure, which will not take effect until 1er next September, is already having consequences on the organization of the establishment, the recruitment of teachers and the education of students.
Opposite, the defendant, representing the prefecture, contested the legitimacy of their request, considering that there was no urgency since the termination decision will only be effective on 1er September 2024. “That staff are affected, that management asks questions does not constitute serious and imminent harm”, he protested. The lawyers then challenged the legality of the termination decision, ruling that the rights of the association had not been respected, calling into question in particular the conduct of the academic advisory commission meeting on November 27, which voted on the decision.
A “political” decision for defense
Finally, on the merits of the case, the association’s lawyers considered that the termination decision was unfounded and “constituted a clear misuse of power”since it intervenes according to them “in contradiction with the conclusions of all the public reports produced so far” on the Averroès high school.
And Me Vincent Brengarth to discuss the numerous inspections to which the high school has been subject since it entered into a contract with the State in 2008, which make it the most inspected high school in the region. Vincent Brengarth noted in particular “the conformity of the educational content of the establishment” with republican values, and “the validity of the Muslim ethics course”highlighted by the report of the General Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research (IGESR), of June 2020.
“However, on the side of the prefecture, we note an objective lack of elements to justify the termination measure”, denounced the lawyer, maintaining that the prefecture had ignored the favorable IGESR report and had relied to justify its decision only on a report from the regional court of accounts from June 2023 and on two blank notes. Unsound documents according to the defense of the establishment, which calls into question these blank notes “unsigned, not detailed and produced unilaterally by the administration”.
“The presence of blank notes betrays the lack of conclusive elements”judged Me Vincent Brengarth. “We demonstrate the political nature of the measure, which is also characterized by a form of double standards compared to other establishments”declared the lawyer, making a clear allusion to the Parisian Catholic establishment under contract Stanislas, currently under fire.
“Why doesn’t the prefecture mention the IGESR report? Why favor blank notes on all the reports we produce? »asked the lawyer again.
Especially since, for the defense, the content of these white notes is itself “disputable”.“The note points out the fact that some of the high school students are veiled, and mentions the presence of works by authors whom it describes as “Brotherists”, citing Bernard Godard, although non-Muslim and author of numerous works on Islam, but also of Tareq Oubrou, great imam of Bordeaux known for his liberal positions”, égrene Me Paul Jablonski.
Facing them, Me François Pinatel, defendant, argued that the establishment conveyed an ideology “separatist. » “We have elements which make it possible to show adherence to a doctrine which permeates the entire establishment and which is not compatible with the values of the republic”, he defended. It is based in particular on an inspection by the CDI (the establishment’s documentation and information center, Editor’s note) in January 2022 reporting “the absence of resources on sexual orientation, homosexuality or secularism” ; and mentioning “important resources around Islam”but “no resources on other religions”.
Links with the Brotherhood in question
Above all, the defendant seeks as proof the refusal by the head of the establishment of an unannounced inspection in June 2022. “The inspectors were refused access to the CDI”, he argues. “That alone is crazy,” he got carried away. Finally, the defendant relies on the report of the regional court of accounts mentioning Muslim ethics courses where he would be taught “that the law of the Republic is inferior to the denominational law”. “It’s very annoying and it’s a serious misunderstanding of the obligations incumbent on a contracted establishment”, he laments. Finally, he points out the comments – made outside of class – of three high school teachers, two of whom are no longer in post today.
In response, the school’s lawyers say they are producing “the full fund” of the CDI, showing that it includes pluralist resources, particularly on homosexuality, and demonstratingt “the conformity of teaching with the values of the Republic. » As for the inspection refused by the head of the establishment – who is no longer in post today – they recognize it. “Indeed, the director was busy that day,” concedes the defense, arguing a probable “burnout” due to repeated checks. “That day, he should have let the inspectors in. »
The last act of the hearing focused on its most controversial point, with the speech of Louis-Xavier Thirode, prefect responsible for defense and security of the Nord department. “All these elements constitute an organized system of failings, and the Averroès high school is very linked to the Muslim Brotherhood movement and to the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF), a very smooth showcase of the Muslim Brotherhood in France”he declared, asking: “Do public funds still have to finance this? »
“There is no permeability between Brotherhood and the educational activity of the establishment”, replied the defense, before the conclusion of the session. The court is expected to issue its decision sometime next week.