Berlin's Humboldt University voted to create an Islamic theology institute, which is to open by the end of 2019. Critics questioned why some groups with alleged links to extremists are on the institute's advisory board.
A supervisory committee at Berlin's Humboldt University (HU) voted on Friday in favor of establishing an institute for Islamic theology that critics have denounced for having what they called a conservative Islamic advisory board.
The head of the committee said the publically funded institute, which is set to train imams and religious teachers, was a "milestone" in the university's development. The city of Berlin will provide some €13 million euros ($15 million) in funding for the center, which will become the sixth academic institute for Islamic theology in Germany.
"Humboldt University will recognize its social responsibility and integrate Islamic theology into its interdisciplinary academic network," HU President Sabine Kunst said in a statement.
Berlin's deputy secretary for science and research, Steffen Krach, said the institute would play an important role in promoting integration in the capital.
Alleged ties to Islamic extremists
Seyran Ates, a Berlin-based liberal Muslim lawyer, however, condemned Humboldt for allowing conservative Islamic groups to be represented on the board in charge of hiring professors.
"We are critical not only because conservative and fundamentalist groups are sitting at the table," she said in an open letter to Humboldt University, "but also because a Shiite group directly and indirectly supports anti-Semitism by its annual celebration of Quds Day [an anti-Zionist protest]."
Representatives from the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), the Islamic Federation of Berlin (IFB), and the Islamic Association of Shiite Communities of Germany (IGS) are members of the board.
The IGS, Ates added, has also been linked to extremist groups that are under special observation by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's domestic intelligence agency.
Politicians from the local chapter of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Green Party have also criticized the inclusion of the IGS on the board.
Humboldt University defended its decision and dismissed concerns about the board's composition. "No one who is known to have taken positions that are incompatible with the constitution and [our] liberal-democratic political order will be appointed," it said.
But that was not enough to reassure Ates.
"This institute is a stillbirth," she told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. "We will establish our own institute."
amp/sms (dpa, AFP, KNA)