Fostering Intellectual Islam: An Interview with Peter Strohschneider (German Council of Science and Humanities)

13 August 2010

In future, centres for Islamic Studies are to be set up at German
universities to train Muslim religious scholars. In an interview with
Qantara, Peter Strohschneider, chairman of the German Council of Science
and Humanities, talks about these plans.

He claims that the project would not only be for the “intellectual
self-reflection by the Muslims, not only a vital project for reasons of
integration policy, but also an intellectual, structurally significant
project.”

On the question of how to name the new subject area in contrast to the
traditional “Islamwissenschaften” (Studies of Islam), he explains that
“Islamic Studies as a theological subject are connected with a belief in
Islam, while ‘Islamwissenschaften’ are not. We suggested the term
‘Islamic Studies’ even though it has some risks, for example the fact
that in English it is equivalent to what we call in German
‘Islamwissenschaften’, the subject we are trying to distinguish it from.
We deliberately avoided using the word ‘theology’ because it comes from
the Christian tradition, but the problem is that the only terminology
available in the German language has been shaped by Ch

Islamic theology in Germany poses great challenges to universities

13 August 2010

Calls for an Islamic theology in Germany are growing ever louder. But
the challenge that this represents is underestimated not only by
politics, but also by Christian theologians and cultural scholars,
writes theologian Klaus von Stosch. Ever since the German Science
Council published its recommendations for “Islamic Studies” at German
universities, the desire to see a German Islamic theology appears to
have become a common cause for all the major political parties in our
country. Islamic theology and its attendant infrastructure for the
education of Islamic religious teachers and imams is apparently viewed
by many as the magic formula for the integration of Muslims living in
Germany.

But the institutions are not necessarily prepared for this major
project. The author claims that it will not be easy for German
universities to overcome the challenges. They will only succeed if a
competition of various academic institutions can be organised in the
medium-term, thereby allowing for the possibility of trying out a number
of different models. In this context attention must be paid in the first
instance to the promotion of young blood in the field of Islamic
theology, because at present there are virtually no eligible
German-speaking Islamic theologians for the study field to be established.

Benjamin Bruce


Areas of expertise:

-Public policy towards Islam in Western Europe

-Turkish Islam and Turkish immigration in Europe

-International Relations Theory

Narrative bio (general under 100 words)

Benjamin Bruce is a PhD student in International Relations at Sciences Po Paris, specializing in Political Science. He is affiliated with the Centre for International Studies and Research (CERI), based in Paris.

His current doctoral research focusses on the interaction between public policy and international relations in the elaboration of national integration policies aimed at Islam in France, Germany and the UK.

Narrative bio (slightly longer)

Benjamin Bruce is a PhD student in International Relations at Sciences Po Paris, specializing in Political Science. He is affiliated with the Centre for International Studies and Research (CERI), based in Paris.

Following an Honours BA at McGill University in East Asian Studies and Linguistics he worked as an intern in the UNHCR social services program in Istanbul, Turkey. He graduated summa cum laude from the Research Master’s Programme at Sciences Po Paris with a Master’s thesis on the role of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı) in the management of Muslim religious life in France and Germany.

Benjamin’s current doctoral research focusses on the interaction between public policy and international relations in the elaboration of national integration policies aimed at Islam in France, Germany and the UK. His research interests include all issues linking religion, immigration, identity and nationalism, especially with a focus on the role of the state institutions and interstate relations.

CV available here

Islamic theology at German universities: A space for doubts and questions

Germany’s Science Council has proposed anchoring Islamic theology at the German universities – rightly and fortunately so, writes Matthias Drobinski for Qantara.de. In the juncture of religion and science Islam has the chance to win back the ability for reflection and self-restriction that the faith once had.

The author argues that Islam has forgotten and abandoned its own tradition of enlightenment. It threatens to become a religion of obedience to the letter of the law, in which Islamist thinkers have an increasing say. They transport an archaic, pre-Enlightenment image of the faith – and at the same time a very modern one. Many a young woman converting to the strictest possible form of Islam in Germany today does so because she likes its clear structures, its close and warming community, because she cannot find her way in a society in which every individual has to assemble her own life; the headscarf or the chador do not tip the scales here. The conflict over an enlightened Islam is thus not simply a conflict between the past and modern society – it is a conflict over the future of religiosity.

The truth about Arab science

In regards to the medical case of British citizen Hannah Clark, who has survived the first “piggyback” heart transplantation and has now fully recovered, author Khaled Diab questions the relationship of Arab science and the Islamic religion. The doctor who undertook this surgery, Magdi Yacoub, is an Egyptian who did not find his success in his own country but in Britain, where he is now one of the most esteemed heart surgeons and researchers and where he furthermore obtained both citizenship and knighthood.

Diab holds Arab countries responsible for hindering scientists to make a career and for science in general to spread, and it is not surprising that the Western world is far more advanced. While he affirms that the Quran can be interpreted in line with some modern science, he warns that other proved scientific aspects are rejected for moral reasons, such as confusing homosexuality with illness. Finally Diab calls for more investment of the Arab states into science, but also to hold universal truths over religious “truths”.

Christian Science Monitor explores 10 terms not to use with Muslims

Chris Seiple of the Christian Science Monitor writes in this piece of ten terms in which we ought to “be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.” The terms, Seiple says, are stemmed from his travels and discussions with Muslims in which such phrases and words are not aiding the building of solid relationships with the Muslim world and community. They are the following: The Clash of Civilizations, Secular, Assimilation, Reformation, Jihadi, Moderate, Interfaith, Freedom, Religious Freedom, and Tolerance.

Seiple acknowledges that such words and phrases will differ and change over the years according to cultural and ethnic context and (mis)perceptions, but argues that earnestly listening to understand each other better is the chief goal.

DNA study shows Spain’s Jewish and Muslim ancestry

The genetic signatures of Spaniards and Portuguese are providing evidence of the mass conversion of Muslims and Sephardic Jews to Catholicism during the 15th and 16th centuries. Eleven percent were found to have DNA reflecting Moorish ancestors, according to geneticists. The finding bears weight on two different views of Spanish history – that Spanish civilization is Catholic and other influences are foreign, or that Spain has been thoroughly enriched by drawing from all three of its historical cultures, including Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim. The genetic studies were based on examining the Y-chromosome in people, as the Y-chromosome remains unchanged from father to son, detecting similarities in those in the present population with those just after the expulsions of the 15th and 16th centuries.

See full-text articles:

International Herald Tribune

The Guardian

New York Times

United Press International

When Social Conflicts Become Ethnicized

Prof. Christoph Butterwegge, head of the Political Science Dept. at K_ln University and member of the Forschungsstelle f_r interkulturelle Studien, was interviewed by Islamische Zeitung about the subjects of his new book, Massenmedien, Migration und Integration. He talked about the battle for control over the Western image of Islam, including right-wing extremists’ attempts in Germany to blur the distinction between immigrants and Muslims, the responsibility of intellectuals in discussing “parallel communities”, and the tepid risk-avoidance of German media in adhering closely to official statements on migration and integration. He suggested that more Muslims should go into and contribute to opinion-forming German media, and expressed his optimism about the humanising, anti-nationalist potential of globalisation that may facilitate genuine integration, which is unlikely to occur on the strength of legal obligations alone – however liberal the state enforcing them may be.