German universities to train Muslim imams, teachers

October 15, 2010

schavan

Germany has announced it will fund Islamic studies at three state universities to train prayer leaders and religion teachers more in tune with Western society than the foreign imams preaching at most mosques here.

Two universities, Tübingen and Münster, are famous for their faculties of Christian theology and count German-born Pope Benedict among their former professors. The third, Osnabrück, opened a course for imams this week with 30 students.

(Photo: Education Minister Annette Schavan in Berlin, October 14, 2010/Thomas Peter)

Since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, several European countries have been seeking ways to educate imams at their universities rather than importing them from Islamic countries out of step with modern and multicultural societies.

Germany, whose state schools have separate religion classes for their Catholic, Protestant and Jewish pupils, also needs qualified Islam teachers for Muslims. Some states already offer Islam classes in their schools and more plan to do so.

“We want as many imams as possible to be educated in Germany,” said Education Minister Annette Schavan on Thursday. “Imams are bridge builders between their congregations and the communities in which their mosques stand.”

The project was announced amid an emotional debate in Germany about the role of Islam. Central bank board member Thilo Sarrazin was forced to resign after publishing a book, to become a bestseller, accusing Muslims of exploiting the welfare state and making little effort to integrate. President Christian Wulff said in a speech marking 20 years of reunification that Islam had won its place in German society.

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