France has Western Europe's largest Muslim population, but its strict separation of church and state means that Muslim girls are forbidden from wearing the headscarves in public schools. In response, many Muslims have turned to an unlikely solution: the nation's large network of Catholic schools. "There is respect for our religion here," said one student at a Marseille Catholic school, where 80% of the students are Muslim.
Catholic schools offer the right to wear the veil, reports the New York Times, and often offer a better education than the state schools in the troubled suburbs of France's biggest cities. Some Catholic educators admit to some religious tensions—discussions of the Crusades in history class can be delicate. But on the whole, said one Muslim leader, "today the Catholic Church is more tolerant of and knowledgeable about Islam than the French state."