Imams made in Germany

16 September 2010
The German government plans to enlist imams educated at German universities to improve the integration of young Muslims in the future. The program, however, threatens to create a conflict between Germany and Turkey and with Muslim organizations.
In the wake of the grim conclusions reached by Thilo Sarrazin, a former executive board member of Germany’s central bank, the Germans have launched into an impassioned debate over why so many Muslims fail in the country — in school, at work and in society. Hanover criminologist Christian Pfeiffer, who interviewed 45,000 young people nationwide, describes one of the key reasons: “Imams from abroad, with no understanding of the reality of life here in Germany, contribute substantially to the poor integration of young German Muslims.” According to Pfeiffer, the more devout Muslim youth also tend to be more isolated from German society. Anyone who hopes to change this, says Pfeiffer, “has to start with the imams”.
Politicians of all stripes are welcoming the idea, but whether it is truly feasible remains uncertain. Even if everything goes according to plan, the eagerly anticipated imams, with their German university degrees, could end up being unemployed, at least initially. Currently, imams are either working on a voluntary basis or are financed by other countries such as Turkey. Uwe Schünemann (CDU), interior minister of the northwestern state of Lower Saxony, has proposed that the new imams be offered half-time jobs as religion teachers in schools. This would enable state and local governments to share the costs, an idea that appeals to Schavan. But a nationwide discussion about Schünemann’s idea hasn’t even begun yet.