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Teaching Islam

Ulrike Hummel / gbMarch 5, 2013

Since the start of the school year, Islamic religious instruction has been offered at selected schools. However, very few children are receiving the classes due to a serious shortage of teachers.

Islamic religious class in the Sandstraße grade school in Duisburg Photo rights: Ulrike Hummel
Image: Ulrike Hummel

Huseyin Cetin teaches Islamic religious instruction in Marxloh, a heavily Muslim section of Duisburg in the Ruhr Valley industrial region of Germany. North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), where Duisburg is located, is the first state in Germany to offer Islamic religious instruction. But the introduction of the classes has been bumpy. There are 100,000 Muslim elementary school children in NRW, but there are only enough teachers to instruct 2,000 pupils.

The problem was expected. It will take some time to provide blanket coverage across the state, admits Sylvia Löhrmann, the NRW education minister. "But what is the alternative? We could not have trained the teachers before knowing whether we were going to have the classes in the first place," she said, adding that there first had to be the legal foundation, which meant introducing the classes incrementally.

Huseyin Cetin Photo: Ulrike Hummel
Huseyin Cetin is one of the first 40 qualified teachersImage: Ulrike Hummel

Pupils' knowledge varies

What's more, courses to train Islam teachers at German universities have only just begun. The first graduates from the University of Münster won't be ready until the spring of 2017.

Huseyin Cetin teaches second graders in Marxloh, as one of 40 qualified Islam religious instruction teachers in NRW.  He studied theology and earned an education degree from Uludag University in Turkey. He has been working as an Islam teacher in a variety of pilot projects since 1999.

Prior knowledge of Islam varies widely among the school children, says Cetin, depending on how often they attend classes at their local mosque. How much they already know also depends on what country they, or their parents, come from. "Our job is to harmonize these different levels of knowledge and to correct the wrong information they have," he told DW, adding that the instruction fulfilled an important function in this regard.

Mouhanad Khorchide, Copyright: Ulrike Hummel
Prof. Mouhanad Khorchide sees the new courses as recognition of the place of Muslims in societyImage: Ulrike Hummel

Career changers welcome

To finesse the shortage of teachers, the NRW education ministry is offering special courses where young educators can earn a certificate to teach Islamic religious instruction. "On the one hand, career changers - that is, Muslims who were enrolled in Islamic studies programs - are being trained to teach religion classes; but, more importantly, the other group is Muslim teachers who have been teaching something else," says Mouhanad Khorchide, from the University of Münster.

One of the bigger problems, however, is the lack of appropriate teaching materials, says one career changer, Aziz Fooladvand, who teaches in Bonn. "There is a book for the five and sixth grades, but there is simply no material for higher levels. I select the topics for all the grades myself, but that takes a lot of time and effort," he said. For the upper grades there is also no harmonized syllabus as yet, he added.

Titel: Aziz Fooladvand Schlagworte: Islamkunde, Bonn, Islamunterricht Wer hat das Bild gemacht/Fotograf?: Ulrike Hummel Wann wurde das Bild gemacht?: 2013 Wo wurde das Bild aufgenommen?: Köln Bildbeschreibung: Quereinsteiger Aziz Fooladvand Rechteeinräumung: Hiermit räume ich der Deutschen Welle das Recht ein, das/die von mir bereitgestellte/n Bild/er zeitlich, räumlich und inhaltlich unbeschränkt zu nutzen. Ich versichere, dass ich das/die Bild/er selbst gemacht habe und dass ich die hier übertragenen Rechte nicht bereits einem Dritten zur exklusiven Nutzung eingeräumt habe. Vollständiger Name des Zulieferers: Ulrike Hummel Postanschrift inkl. Land: Zülpicher Wall 36, 50674 Köln Mail-Adresse: ulihummel@web.de
Aziz Fooladvand has to prepare teaching material himself since syllabuses are not yet readyImage: Ulrike Hummel

Fooladwand said he tried to be critical of traditional views, which often leads to heated discussions. But such debates, he said, do not take place in the family, or at the mosque, because the religious practice there is not methodical or didactic. Viewpoints are just simply accepted, he said.

Important sign of recognition

Despite the modest number of pupils participating at the moment, Khorchide is upbeat about the prospects. He said there was a brisk interest in religious education among the students and, in Muslim circles, the Islamic courses have been widely accepted. "This is seen as a sign of recognition for Islam and Muslims as equal citizens in this country," he said.