German schools need more Islamic religion classes in light of increased Islamophobia

German schools need more Islamic religion classes in light of increased Islamophobia

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A new study revealed that 54,000 high school students in Germany receive Islamic religion classes. However, the number of interested parties could be 10 times higher.

Islamunterricht an Schulen in NRW (picture alliance / dpa)

There are not enough German high school students who receive Islamic religion classes, according to a new study from the Mediendienst Integration information service. About 54,000 students in 800 schools across the country are currently receiving Islamic religion classes, a significant increase compared to the 42,000 they attended two years ago, according to official statistics from Germany’s 16 state education ministries.

However, this figure is much lower than the 580,000 students who would potentially be interested in receiving such classes, according to the 2008 report entitled “Muslim life in Germany”, carried out by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees ( BAMF).

Since this survey was carried out before the recent influx of refugees into Germany, that figure is likely to be even higher now. Although the exact figures are not known, Rauf Ceylan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at the University of Osnabrück, believes that the number of Muslim children aged between six and 18 in German schools is around 750,000 to 800,000.

On the other hand, that survey also found that 70,000 additional students would be interested in the Alevism classes: currently only 800 students attend such classes throughout Germany, Mediendienst Integration revealed, after collecting data from state education ministries. “That’s pretty ridiculous,” Ceylan said of the numbers.

Deutschland Islamischer Religionsunterricht in einer Grundschule in Ludwigshafen-Pfingstweide (picture-alliance / dpa / R. Wittek)

Islam is also taught in German primary schools

A critical approach

In Germany, almost all education policies are determined at the state level, and each state has a different approach to teaching religion: some states allow contributions from churches or religious organizations, others administer everything through the state, while two, Hamburg and Bremen , they only have unified religious lessons that include different creeds. In the meantime, in all the eastern states of Germany, except Berlin, there is no option of Islamic religion classes.

“It is clear that there is demand for more religious classes of Islam,” Ceylan said, but warned that it is not known exactly how much. “The question is: what is the potential, and what happens, for example, with the secular Muslims?”

For Ceylan, several factors have led to the deficit: on the one hand, teachers of religious studies in Germany are lacking. Second, he said, school principals need to think that it is important for Muslim children to have a choice of religious education. “Then, at least 12 children who want to participate must be found, and an application must be submitted, and parents must be informed that this possibility exists, it is not just a system problem,” he added.

A constitutional right to religious classes

Offering religion classes for Muslim children is a fairly new idea in Germany. “We have three pillars of religious education in Germany: the family, the community – in other words, the church or the mosque – and the school,” Ceylan said. “With the family things can be very uncertain, the mosques are mainly to transmit the faith, while in the schools, the idea is to educate the student to religious maturity so that he is in a position to choose his own faith. far from introducing that, “he added.

Ceylan stressed that the idea of Islamic religious education is not simply to learn to interpret the Koran, but to “reflect critically on it.” “It’s about learning the skills to organize religious content, analyze it and be able to compare religions, which is important when you live in a society that is multi-religious, and that has atheists and agnostics,” he said. “The objectives of the religion classes are a complement to the general objectives of the education system,” he added.

Musa Bagrac, professor of Islamic studies in Hamm, North Rhine-Westphalia, and president of the Islamic Studies Teachers Association, which helps form the religious curriculum in the state, argued that German Muslim students had the constitutional right to attend Islamic religious classes guided by religious associations, and that the ethics classes were only intended for those who described themselves as nonreligious. “Our association works from the German constitution, which protects religious studies as a subject in school,” he said.

Bagrac was referring to Article 7 of the German Constitution, which includes a paragraph that has created a lot of legal paperwork in recent decades: “Religious education should be part of the regular curriculum in state schools, with the exception of of non-denominational schools, without prejudice to the right of supervision of the state, religious education will be conducted in accordance with the principles of the religious community, “reads the article.

DITIB Zentralmoschee Köln-Ehrenfeld (DW / M. Odabasi)

The German Constitution guarantees religious associations the right to organize religious studies

” More religion? No way “

However, a high school teacher in Berlin, herself with atheist backgrounds, is skeptical of the whole idea of religious education. His school, where 95 percent of the students are Muslims, offers only mandatory ethics classes, which cover religions and abstract philosophical concepts.

“If you asked my Muslim students, they would probably say that they would like Islamic classes at school, but I would say: No way! If you go to the mosque anyway, you do not need to have it in school either.” said the teacher, who wanted to remain anonymous. “If they had any class in that kind of thing, it would probably be good for them to learn about Christian culture,” he said.

“I think that students should be informed about the main religions, where they come from, what their principles are, and maybe they discuss something like abortion from these different points of view,” he added. “But I think that anything that has to do with the practice of that religion should be outside the school, which is why we have the division of church and state.”

Bagrac, however, argued that it is important that Muslim students be taught their religion in German, rather than Arabic or Turkish, and “under state supervision”. “That has side effects like helping to prevent radicalization and encouraging integration,” Bagrac. Bagrac added that his classes cover the history of Islam, and questions about friendship, prayer, talking to God, what happens after death, what the religious commandments are, and how to understand and counteract extremism from a point of view. 

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