BERLIN (RNS) German political and religious leaders appear mostly supportive of a proposal to provide training for imams and other Islamic scholars at German universities.
The recommendation, issued Friday (Jan. 29) after two years of study by the German Council of Science and Humanities, said given the country’s 4 million Muslims, German colleges and universities should play some role in training those who would, in turn, teach the faith.
“The growing plurality of religious affiliations in Germany combined with the growing need for academic expertise in questions about religion has set new demands for the organization and capabilities of academics who focus on these issues,” read a statement released by the council.
The plan calls for initial pilot programs in Islamic studies at two or three German universities. The goal would be to train imams and other people active in social and community work, but also teachers who would teach the Muslim faith in German public schools.
Most German schools provide religious education, though many districts complain of a lack of trained Muslim teachers. Many students, since they cannot learn about Islam at school, attend classes run by local community centers, which has fueled concern that children are receiving schooling outside the mainstream educational establishment.
German Education Minister Annette Schavan told the newspaper Die Welt that the move, if implemented, would lead to “a comprehensive integration policy for modern society.” Although Germany’s Muslim population is growing fast, there is also concern that foreign-born Muslims are not integrating into German society.
Kenan Kolat, the head of Turkish associations in Germany, told the newspaper Die Zeit that his group supported the plan, but argued that the educational centers must remain independent.
Currently, the University of Muenster is the only German academy with a small Islamic studies program geared at training teachers and imams.
— Niels Sorrells
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