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Islam classes will protect children from fundamentalists, bishop says

State-sponsored lessons in Islam could protect young Muslims from radical ideologies, the Evangelical Church's head bishop has said. The pontiff has called for all schools in Germany to teach the religion.

"Young Muslim pupils should get the chance to critically analyze their religion's traditions," Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), told German newspaper "Heilbronner Stimme."

This could be the best way to make young people immune to fundamentalist ideas, he said.

Bedford-Strohm called for "nationwide lessons in Islam," adding that pupils could learn about Islam on the basis of the German constitution.

"Tolerance, freedom of religion and conscience should be valid for all religions. These rules can be taught in the best way, if religion is seen as part of the state's educational mission," he said.

The bishop said Islamic organizations could take up the responsibility for such lessons, the same way churches did for schools. Muslims in Germany could organize contact partners for this purpose. Most German schools offer classes in both Catholicism and Protestantism and some also provide students instruction in Judaism and Islam.

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Islam lessons underway in six states

Representatives of the Catholic Church agreed with Bedford-Strohm's proposal, saying they had previously called for Islam lessons "on the basis of the Grundgesetz."

Bavaria's Culture and Education Minister, Ludwig Spaenle, also said Germany needed to give school children the opportunity to learn more about their religion. However, at present, there was nobody from the Muslim community who could satisfactorily serve as a partner for dialogue, he added.

Six out of 18 German states, including North-Rhine Westphalia, Bavaria, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg, currently offer lessons in Islam. Saarland has been experimenting with the idea in junior classes, according to Germany's Standing Conference of Education and Culture Ministers.

mg/sms (epd, dpa)

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