Islam in schools?

January 13, 2014

By Alessandra Coppola


The Austrian education system allows for teachers to teach Islamic religion in public schools. Another pilot-project is in Assia, Germany and was reported in the “New York Times.” The article in the Times called for similar programs across Europe – Islam in schools is already practiced and disseminated on a national scale and it is at the gates of Italy.

THE AUSTRIAN MODEL – Ayşegül Dinckan – Yilmaz, 31, of Turkish origin, is a member and head of IRPA (in English MTTC – Muslim Teachers Training College). The Institute gives a regular degree in Education, explains Ayşegül, but also gives accreditation by the Islamic Council of Austria, a body officially recognized by Vienna. To clarify: the teachers are paid by the Ministry of Education. Courses are taught in Islamic theology, pedagogy, teaching and law. “During the practicum our students begin to work with children of different ethnic origins. The teaching students have various backgrounds, many are from Turkey, but also from the Balkans and the Arab world.” 500 are already in the classroom, distributed to the classrooms of 50,000 Muslim students in the country: “more and more students enroll in these courses. The children are given the opportunity to learn their religion by specialists in German language and can use this knowledge to talk about Islam in German with their neighbors.” The program emphasizes interfaith dialogue: “We have several collaborations including exchanges of teachers, for example with the Institute of Training of the Christian churches in Vienna.”

THE SITUATION IN ITALY – is this imaginable in Italy? Is it a model that can be imported? Professor Paolo Branca, a scholar of Islam at the Catholic University of Milan, and among the most famous in Italy, explains that the school population is no longer homogeneous; there is a diversity of Muslims. “The reality is already moving in this direction alone.”

THE RISK of extremism. The thrust of the project in Frankfurt is also born from the fear of marginalization and subsequent radicalization of young Muslims. The case of a Turkish terrorist cell in Germany in 2007 raised an alarm on Salafi proselytism, the most recent reports of volunteers leaving Germany to join the jihad in Syria. There are no events far from Italy, and scholars warn that with the growth of Islam, Italy must not abandon the religion, marginalizing it and leaving it to extremist preachers.

THE HOUR OF ” RELIGION ” – The question then concerns the overall approach of the Italian Catholic community. As for the schools, since it is still being debated Branca suggested not to divide the students into religious traditions – the Christians on the one hand and the Muslim on the other, “it would be a step backwards” – instead Branca urges Italian officials to consider a course of study that holds together all Italians, of all faiths.


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