"Euro-Islam:" State-Sponsored Imam Training in Europe
November 22, 2010
Germany’s public universities will soon count dozens of imams amongst their graduates. The country’s announcement last month that it will fund imam training programs at three state universities is part of a broader European effort to integrate their growing Muslim populations and eradicate the threat of homegrown terrorism through education.
From aggressively monitoring mosques, to deporting extremist imams, to enhancing transportation security, European measures to combat domestic extremism have often been reactive and focused on short-term security concerns. Government-sponsored imam training programs seek to tackle the problem at its roots—by training leaders to teach a tolerant, inclusive “European Islam.”
Germany’s first publicly-funded imam training program, launched at Osnabrueck University, includes German language courses and field trips to the German parliament. Students in the Master’s imam training program at the Dutch Leiden University have to write their theses on Islam “within a European context.” France’s Catholic University offers courses in secular subjects like French law, history, and politics to imams studying at the Grand Mosque of Paris.
Prominent Muslim organizations have criticized state-sponsored programs. The Union of French Islamic Organizations declined to send students to the Catholic University program, preferring a more “neutral academic framework.” The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, the largest Islamic organization in Germany, did not send any representatives to the open house for the imam training program at Osnabrueck University. For some, state support is a problem, not a solution.
This piece is a part of Mezze, a monthly short article series spotlighting societal trends across the region. It originally appeared in the Middle East Program's monthly newsletter, Middle East Notes and Comment. For more information and to receive our mailings, please contact the Middle East Program.