If it wants to be authentic and relevant to practice, religious education along denominational lines should not become an instrument of integration and should take the expectations of Muslims seriously. Nimet Seker takes a stand.
The introduction of Islamic education is already a done deal in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony. Starting next year, Islamic education will be part of the regular curriculum. Currently, some 700,000 children from Muslim families go to school in Germany – until now they have not had access to Islamic education. In recent years, the state has put considerable efforts into introducing Islamic education and has given financial support to the creation of professorships for Islamic Studies at German schools of theology. This is where the future teachers of Islamic education and imams will be trained.
However, a latent discrepancy in the expectations of the public, the political sphere and Muslims is apparent.
Islamic education in mosques is often based on learning by heart and reflection on ethical and spiritual matters are often not given sufficient attention, writes Nimet Seker The majority of Muslims are expecting religious education classes that will impart Islamic values and norms to their children and provides guidance, information and reflection about their faith. The classes are supposed to offer Muslim children the opportunity to build up a relationship with God and learn about ethical behaviour, which has been missing in schools until now. While Catholic and Protestant children sit in their religion classes in primary schools in Lower Saxony or elsewhere, Muslim children do not have lessons in ethics instead but just have to while away their time. In their first four school years, the children are pretty much left on their own.
Conversely, some people are dissatisfied with Islamic education in mosques because it is often based on learning by heart and reflection on ethical and spiritual matters are often not given sufficient attention. Only a few mosque associations work with staff that has been trained in pedagogy and education because there are not enough resources. This is why the Muslims’ expectations of Islamic education in schools is very high.
The politicians and the public have somewhat other expectations: Recently, Christian Walter, Professor of Public Law at Münster University, spoke of the state’s “legitimate taming interest” in the context of creating professorships of Islamic Studies in universities. At a conference on Islamic education in Germany, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière spoke about a “valuable contribution to integration”. It seems almost to be a law of nature that when Islam is mentioned, integration automatically crops up.
However, one basic question arises: If the secular state, in North Rhine-Westphalia or elsewhere, bans teachers from wearing headscarves, might it not be disturbed that schoolchildren are learning Muslim prayers?…