Muslim prison chaplains to be standardized

Following an agreement reached between the justice minister, Claudia Bandion-Ortner and the president of the Islamic Religious Community, Anas Schakfeh, Muslim chaplains in prisons are to be standardized across the country. At around 1300 Muslim inmates, Islam has come to represent the second largest religion in Austrian penal institutions. Earlier religious services had been the result of local and regional cooperation, which meant regular visits by Muslim chaplains had been limited to ten prisons. The goal of the agreement is that such regular visits be possible in all prisons where a demand exists.

The agreement also lays out a number of minimum standards for the chaplains and conditions for the prisons visits. This includes a high school diploma; good knowledge of German, in order to hold religious services in German; and basic knowledge of the prison system, so as to ensure an optimal balance between safety and religious practice.

In the press release, Bandion-Ortner stressed the importance of the chaplain’s assistance in the resocialization of inmates, while Schakfeh expressed his happiness that an important step had been taken towards the broader institutionalization of Muslim prison chaplains.

Improving Islamic education in the Netherlands

This week De Telegraaf publishes an interview with Yusuf Altuntas, principal of the ISBO, the Netherlands’ umbrella organization for Islamic education, in advance of its annual address. Venues for Islamic education in the country include 42 elementary and 2 secondary schools serving approximately 10,000 pupils. Altuntas addressed plans to improve ratings for school inspections through online monitoring and incentive programs involving ‘friendly competition’. The goal is providing quality education for all students. Altantas states, “We want with our schools to have immigrant children excelling, and offer education in a safe environment. We are convinced that students who learn by us do not become dropouts. No, we don’t celebrate Christmas, but we do educate to good citizens.”