German academic body calls for Islamic theology at universities

The German government’s top academic advisory panel is to call on Monday for Islamic theology to be taught at German universities in the same way as Christian and Jewish theology are.

Currently, Islamic studies in Germany mainly focus in a neutral way on history and art and only one university, at Muenster, has begun to set up a department to train school teachers to teach Islam to children.

The recommendation, the result of two years of research and debate, comes from the German Council of Science and Studies.

The report, covering a reform of theology teaching for all three religions, was obtained on Saturday by the German Press Agency dpa.

Germany is home to 4 million Muslims out of a total population of 80 million. The council said the qualification for imams and other Islamic scholars in Germany should be a university theology degree, rather than leaving religious studies to privately funded groups.

The council, comprising senior government officials and professors, called for institutes of Islamic theology to be established at two to three universities initially.

In parts of the Islamic world, theology studies using western academic methods have been viewed with suspicion, especially history and philosophy studies which track changes over time in doctrines.

Muslim groups in Germany have worried that non-believers could be hired to teach some courses. The council conceded that advisory councils from the Muslim community should have a voice in hiring professors.

Bekir Alboga, spokesman for Germany’s coordinating committee of Muslim organizations, told Saturday’s issue of the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that “at least in the initial stages,” Muslim groups wanted influence over course content and hiring.

Muenster University has a small department teaching the Koran and other topics to Muslim school teachers, but most teachers offering classes to Muslim children in public schools are trained in Turkey.

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