"The government has recently granted us the license to start operation," Mahmoud Awwad, the sponsor and director of the "Education et Savior" school, told IslamOnline.net Tuesday, March 4.
Starting on March 10, in the middle of the academic year which started in September, the school will open just one primary class for 10 students to complete the academic year.
"As of the coming academic year 2008/9, we will open secondary classes accommodating 40 students," noted Awwad.
He said the new school, located in the southern Paris suburb of Vitrerie, will follow state curricula in addition to two mandatory subjects on Arabic and Islam.
"Education et Savior" is the second the school to be opened in Paris after the Reussite school in the northern Paris suburb of Aubervilliers, and the fourth of its kind in France.
The two other private Islamic schools are Ibn Rushd in the northern city of Lille and Al-Kindi in the central city of Lyon.
There had been a strong desire among French Muslims, estimated at six to seven million, to have private Islamic schools after Paris banned hijab and religious symbols in state schools four years ago.
French Muslim students who adhered to their hijabs had been expelled by principals and their future appeared largely at stake.
They heaved a sigh of relief after the opening of such Islamic schools, which are recognized by the state.
Awwad said the new school faced no obstacle in getting the operation license.
"Unlike Al-Kindi secondary school, we faced no obstacles," he said.
The opening of Al-Kindi in Lyon hit several snags when it tried to start operation in 2006.
The Academy of Lyon, the highest state educational body in the city, denied the school the needed operation license and closed the fledgling seat of learning, arguing that it failed to meet hygiene and safety standards.
But the Administrative Court in Lyon overturned the closure last February, opening the way for the school to start anew in March 2007.
French Muslim leaders say the Al-Kindi incident has encouraged Muslim societies to open similar schools.
"The Al-Kindi controversy has helped break barriers of fear among the Muslim minority to have more schools," said Lhaj Thami Breze, chairman of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF).
"The French people and institutions have come to terms with the establishment of faith-based schools in the country."
Awwad, the director of the new Islamic school in Vitrerie, said the main obstacle facing his school is finance.
"We need 250,000 euros to meet the school needs next year," he said. "This year we started with 100,000 euros because we have only one class."
Awwad urged French Muslims to donate generously to keep the nascent school running.
"We, like other Muslim schools in France, depend on (Muslim) donations as tuitions only cover 15 percent of the cost," he said, noting that every student pays 1,500 euros a year.
The finance problem facing Muslim schools came to the fore last year when the Reussite school in Aubervilliers nearly closed due to the lack of finance.
The Ibn Rushd school will be the first Muslim school to get state finance as of next school year.
Source: Islam Online (English)
See also: France: First Muslim high school