ALEX Salmond yesterday threw his support behind plans for Scotland's first state-funded Islamic school, to be submitted to councillors in Glasgow.
Senior Muslim community leaders are preparing a detailed case for the school, which organisers say will "teach Islamic values" and will be delivered later in the summer.
It is the first serious attempt to establish a state-funded Islamic school in Scotland, and is believed to have strong chance of success, with the First Minister yesterday suggesting such a step was simply a matter of time.
Scotland already has state-funded Catholic, Episcopalian and Jewish schools, and there is strong support among the country's estimated 80,000 Muslims for their own faith school.
But the move is likely to be controversial, and some believe that the plan may harm integration between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.
Four schools in Glasgow already have a roll that is comprised of at least 90 per cent Muslim children, and organisers say there is "demand" from Muslim parents for a faith school.
Speaking after the launch of the Scottish Islamic Foundation yesterday, Mr Salmond told The Scotsman there was a "clear" argument for Islamic schools.
He said: "I'm supportive. Obviously, it's a council responsibility and that process has been made quite clear.
"The application will be made to the council, and the council will judge whether there is a consistent degree of support in terms of creating a Muslim school within the state sector in Scotland within weeks.
"There is a great deal of work to be done. It's in everybody's interests to ensure the first state Muslim school in Scotland is a resounding success."
He added: "The argument seems very clear. In Scotland, we have a large number of Catholic schools, we have several Episcopalian churches and we have a Jewish school.
"These are all highly successful elements of faith education in Scottish society. The critical matter in terms of Scottish education is, if we have faith schools, they must be within the state sector.
"People have the freedom to establish faith schools outside the sector, but they haven't had a tremendous record of success.
"I'm supportive but the council has to test a sustainable level of demand in the community."
Osama Saeed, chief executive of the Scottish Islamic Foundation, said a detailed submission was being prepared and would be handed to Glasgow council leaders towards the end of the summer.
"There is demand. Enough Muslim parents want to see it happen. It will be good for the education system to have extra diversity."
He added: "We are not pitching for a 'Muslim school'. There are already four schools in Glasgow which are 90 per cent Muslim. We are talking about an Islamic school, a school that has a certain ethos."
Mr Saeed would not detail the plans, but he said he has researched a number of Islamic schools in England, where children are taught the Koran, girls wear the hijab, and boys and girls are segregated.
Muslim leader urges believers to promote fairness and peace
OSAMA Saeed yesterday said he was determined to make Islam "a force for good" in Scotland.
The chief executive of the Scottish Islamic Foundation said the body aimed to promote the "progressive" elements inherent in the Islamic faith, including freedom and social justice.
He also dismissed criticism from the Centre for Social Cohesion, a right-wing think tank, which claims it represents a "narrow form of political Islam" that has been discredited.
Critics have accused Mr Saeed of advancing "hard-line" Islamic views. But he rejected claims he had links to the extremist Muslim Brotherhood.
"I've never been involved in the Muslim Brotherhood," he said. "Why don't people judge us on what we say and do?"
He stressed he wanted Scottish Muslims to reach out to the Muslim world "to build peace".