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Qatari funding : The heavy silences of the french National Education on the Averroès High School in Lille



Following the revelations of the book “Qatar Papers” on the Qatari funding granted to the Lycée Averroès in Lille, Jean-Michel Blanquer, the french Minister of National Education commissioned two reports. Two years later, these reports intended to determine whether the foreign funding in question is likely to revoke the contract that binds this high school, founded and run by the Muslim Brotherhood, to national education (and therefore to cut public funding). ), have still not been made public …

By Ian Hamel, in Lille

In the chapter entitled “When Qatar wants to buy the Averroès High School in Lille”, in the book “Qatar Papers”(*), journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot reveal that the first Muslim school under a contract of association with the French state received three million euros from Qatar Charity, the main “NGO” of the gas emirate. Knowing that at the origin of the creation of this private high school in 2003, is Amar Lasfar, 61 years old, the president of Musulmans de France (ex-UOIF), the french structure of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Ministry of Education quickly launched a pedagogical and financial inspection of the school. It was carried out just before the lockdown. The first report, number 2020-047, was entrusted to the General Inspectorate for National Education. The next audit, number 2019-59-202, was carried out by the General Directorate of Public Finances. These two reports arrived last year on the desk of Xavier Bertrand, the chairman of the Hauts-de-France region. Their conclusions apparently did not satisfy him, since in October 2020 he asked Jean-Michel Blanquer for clarification. The reports do mention the foreign funding that the school receives, but do not draw any conclusions.

Letters from the chairman of the Hauts-de-France region have remained unanswered to date. On our side, we have not had any more luck from the Ministry of Education. There is radio silence. For his part, Amar Lasfar, president of the association that runs the Averroès High School, assures us that he is not afraid of “any inspection, on the contrary, they allow us to clarify our doubts. As for the subsidy from the Qatar Charity Foundation, yes, it has been paid and has always been explicitly traced in our accounts. It is completely legal. It was 950,000 euros and not 3 million.

An elected member of the region in the board of directors of Averroès!

While the National Education Department has not moved two years after the release of “Qatar Papers” and continues to pay the sums provided for in the association contract with the State, Xavier Bertrand has suspended a 45,300 euro subsidy from the Hauts-de-France region from October 2019. It was to be used to renovate the roof and buy computers. The Averroès High School has taken the matter to the administrative court, considering that the region does not have the right to block a subsidy provided for in the association contract with the state. “45,300 euros is not much, but it is symbolic. Xavier Bertrand’s attitude towards the Averroès school has changed a lot. It should be remembered that he went to the school the day after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, not to denounce Islamism but to reassure those in charge by declaring that he was not making any amalgam,” recalls Mohamed Louizi, author of “Why I left the Muslim Brotherhood”.

Philippe Emery, president of the National Rally group in the region (the only opposition to the current majority), does not spare Xavier Bertrand: “He knew about the money paid by Qatar because Nicolas Lebas, the former vice-president of the regional council, was a member of the board of directors of Averroès! He turned a blind eye for years”. In July 2020, Nicolas Lebas, in charge of higher education and research, left the Hauts-de-France regional council to go over to the “enemy”: he joined the cabinet of Alain Griset, Minister Delegate in charge of SMEs.

Averroès calls for a vote against Marine Le Pen

A confidential report on the Averroès High School, which Global Watch Analysis was able to consult, recalls that on 10 December 2015, at the time of the second round of regional elections in the Hauts-de-France region, opposing Xavier Bertrand to Marine Le Pen, the Muslim establishment had relayed a communiqué from the Islamic League of the North which clearly called for a vote against the National Front (which has since become the National Rally): “We citizens of Muslim faith cannot remain indifferent to the instrumentalisation of fears of Islam and Muslims and their institutions and we call to avoid at all costs that our region is led by the party of rejection and exclusion. On Sunday 13 December, let us vote massively against the carriers of hate”.

In addition, this confidential report contains a photo taken in May 2015 on the premises of the Averroès High School. It illustrates the links of the public school with the Emirate. Amar Lasfar, president of the UOIF and Makhlouf Mamèche, president of the National Federation of Education (FNEM), pose with Sheikh Hamad Bin Nasser Al Thani, chairman of the board of Qatar Charity, and Youssef al Kuwari, executive director of Qatar Charity.

In 2015, the Muslim high school was challenged by Soufiane Zitouni, a philosophy teacher who resigned. In a two-page text published in Libération, entitled “Why I resigned from the Averroès High School”, he denounced the religious and anti-Semitic drift of the school, accused of propagating “Islamism”. Soufiane Zitouni recounts that a teacher at the school, just after the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, had dared to write that this newspaper “cultivates the abject” and “contributes, every day, to the trivialisation of racist acts”. Condemned in first instance, the resigning teacher was acquitted in cassation. Following this case, the Lille education authority concluded that the terms of the contract with the State were “generally respected” by the Averroès high school. Five years later, the state apparently still says “move along, there’s nothing to see”.

(*) The French Edition of “Qatar Papers. Comment l’émirat finance l’islam de France et d’Europe” was published by Michel Lafont, in April 2019. The English Edition “Qatar Papers. How Doha finances the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe” was published by Global Watch Analysis Editions, in December 2019.