(RNS) While Germany’s politicians are loudly debating whether Islam is compatible with democracy, five of its state universities are quietly developing pioneering new Islamic theology faculties to try to ensure that it is.
The five universities — in Muenster, Osnabrueck, Frankfurt, Tubingen and Erlangen-Nuremberg — recently passed their first official evaluations by Muslim and Christian experts and were granted 20 million euros (or $22 million) to continue for another five years.
The programs now have a total of over 1,800 students and plan to grow. The largest program, in Muenster, has 700 students in its three-year bachelor’s program and received more than double that number of applicants this academic year alone.
Their example has been such a success that Berlin decided to introduce Islamic theology at one of its universities, even though it will not get federal funds for it.
The practical approach these faculties have taken towards training Muslim religion teachers, conducting research into Islam and fostering interfaith dialogue contrasts sharply with the increasingly shrill declarations coming from Germany’s far-right, especially the Alternative for Germany party.
The party will hold a convention April 29-30 to agree on its new platform. Its deputy leader, Beatrix von Storch, said Islam violates Germany’s democratic constitution and its public symbols such as minarets, muezzins (people who call Muslims to prayer) and full-face veils should be banned.