News Agencies – September 7, 2012
A dedicated training institute for imams will be opened in Strasbourg as part of an agreement between France and Turkey.
From January 2013, the “Free Faculty of Islamic Theology” will offer training courses for 30 French students, including women. The project, the first of its kind in France, is being completely financed by Turkey and donations, and will involve spending two million euros to turn a former training centre for postal workers into the imam faculty.
Qualifications earned at the institute will be validated by the University of Istanbul. At the moment, imam training is being offered at places such as the Union of Islamic Organisations in France and the Great Mosque of Paris. Since 2008, the Catholic Institute of Paris has also been giving courses for future imams.
14 October 2010
The first course launched by Al-Azhar University in collaboration with the University of Cambridge has come to an end. Al-Azhar University in Cairo offered British Muslims studying at the Prince Alwaleed Centre of Islamic Studies in Cambridge the chance to attend its Imam training. The course was especially designed for young British Muslims studying in Darul Ulooms (Islamic seminaries) which often produce future Imams and Muslim chaplains.
The 15 week programme hoped to provide students with a challenging series of seminars, lectures and personal study assignments that will help them with potential roles as leaders in their faith communities. During the course, students spent time at both Cambridge and Al-Azhar and met with representatives from community organisations of different faiths to learn about pastoral care, interfaith working and community leadership.
Beth Caldwell, a British Council English teacher, said, “Our students are now engaging with the world — the real and the virtual — on a level which would have been impossible with their level of English just a short time ago.” Al-Azhar student Alaa Eddin Ibrahim is using his English to speak to others via social networking. He said, “Al Azhar graduates need to have the opportunity to interact with the world outside of Egypt, to show the world, particularly the West, the right image of Islam.”
Educating Islamic theologians – schoolteachers and imams – at German universities has caused a lot of discussion in the past. Now the Wissenschaftsrat (German Council of Science and Humanities) has proposed a concept to grant both universities and Muslim associations a say in the education, but it is still likely to stir controversy.
So far, Muslim associations had little influence on the curriculum of Islamic education at universities, but some faculties do seek advice with local mosques or national Muslim associations. In 2008, a case at the University of Münster has caused a large debate: Muhammad Kalisch, Professor of Islamic Religion, publicly doubted the real existence of Prophet Mohammed, which in turn caused an outcry among Muslim associations. They called for Prof. Kalisch to step down and discouraged students to take up Islamic teacher training in Münster. Because they had no say, Kalisch still continues to teach.
The new proposal seeks to guarantee acceptance of Islamic teachers and Imams among the believers, and therefore allows associations to have more influence. Together with the universities, they may take part in decision-making on what will be taught and by whom. While it is certainly necessary to consult Islamic expertise in this matter, the question is whether the largely conservative associations would be the best partners. In the case of Kalisch, this would certainly have lead to his replacement by a very conservative scholar, which undermines independent academic research and teaching. On the other hand, it is a positive sign of the Wissenschaftsrat to incorporate Islamic theology into German state universities instead of leaving it to the Muslim associations or even to Islamic countries.
Imams are sometimes stereotyped as agents of division or radicalization. But a new Germany-wide training program aims to exploit their potential to be forces for integration. Fifteen imams started coursework in mid-December as part of “Imams for Integration,” a four-month program designed to make them fluent in German culture as well as language.
Most of Germany’s imams grew up and received their religious training outside of Germany, often in Turkey. Turkey’s religious affairs office regularly sends theologians to over 800 German mosques, but few come with German language skills.
“Imams for Integration” is a joint initiative organized by the Goethe Institute, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), and the German association of Turkish Muslim congregations, DITIB. The program consists of 500 hours of German language instruction and 12 days of lessons about intercultural and German topics, such as the powers of the state, life in a pluralistic society, religious diversity, the educational system, migration, and community work.
A Swiss National Science Foundation program has found that most Muslims living in Switzerland—the second largest religious community here—advocate bringing Imam training here, as do Swiss authorities, universities and legal experts. It’s a question that points to larger issues regarding social integration for an immigrant community. Christoph Uehlinger is a professor of religious studies at the University of Zurich. He shared what was most surprising about the finidngs with WRS’s Carla Drysdale.
Le Figaro daily newspaper reports that for the first time, a student has been expelled from the Catholic Institute for Imam Instruction because of anti-Semitic remarks. Alerted by other students of the problem, the RMF (Rassemblement des musulmans de France or Assembly of French Muslims) asked the imam in question not to return to class. Details of the incident are not clear.
Among the twenty-five students currently enrolled are 15 military chaplains and 10 foreign imams.