It was a match made in heaven, and both families approved. The groom was a computer engineer, the bride a nursing student. Children of Moroccan immigrants, they had thrived in French society and seemed at home with its ways.
But on their wedding night, the groom discovered that his bride was not the virgin she had said she was. He stormed out of the bridal chamber. His father, outraged, said the marriage was off. That same night, he returned the young woman to her family home.
The drama in this middle-class suburb of apartment blocks and supermarkets, on the eastern edge of Lille in northern France, could have remained a private family affair -- that is what its main protagonists desperately wanted. But instead, it set off a legal struggle with strong political undertones and an explosion of outrage by media-savvy activists in Paris. In the end, it became a parable for the strain France has encountered in absorbing the more than 5 million Muslims, about 8 percent of the population and growing, who have made this country their home.