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Germany will announce a plan on Monday to offer training programs for students who wish to become Muslim spiritual leaders, or imams, the country's top academic body said.
Islamic programs of study are to be established at German universities
The German Council of Science and Humanities, composed of senior government officials and professors, called for institutes of Islamic theology to be established at two to three universities initially.
At present, Muenster is the only German university training schoolteachers to teach Islam
It added that the training of imams and Muslim schoolteachers should be an accepted program of study awarded with a university degree.
Germany's education minister Annette Schavan welcomed the council's decision.
"Training Moslem religion teachers and developing Islamic studies… is part of a decisive integration policy in a modern society," Schavan said.
The advisory panel had been working on a report over the last two years focused on reforming the teaching of theology at Germany universities, in particular Christian, Jewish, and Islamic theology.
Suspicion of western training?
Currently, Islamic studies at German universities mainly focus in a neutral way on history and art. A department has been set up at one German university, however, in the western city of Muenster, to train schoolteachers to teach Islam to children.
Islam classes in German schools are mostly taught by teachers trained abroad
The small department offers courses on the Koran and other topics to aspiring Muslim schoolteachers, but most teachers currently teaching Muslim children in German schools are trained in Turkey.
In parts of the Islamic world, meanwhile, theology studies using western academic methods have been viewed with suspicion, especially history and philosophy studies which track changes over time in doctrines.
Bekir Alboga, spokesman for Germany's coordinating committee of Muslim organizations, told the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that "at least in the initial stages," Muslim groups wanted influence over who would be offering the courses and their content.
At present, Germany is home to around four million Muslims out of a total population of just over 80 million.
Editor: Toma Tasovac