German Schools Introduce Muslim Classes 'Anyone Who Wants Integration Has to Provide Islam Instruction'

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Part 2: A Dearth of Teachers


But if every imam can teach as he wishes in his Koran school, who should officials in the Education Ministry turn to to help develop lesson plans for religion classes, or even university curricula for teachers of religion?

But now there is movement on both sides. The Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany was formed in March 2007. And the education ministers of several German states are now announcing plans to expand Islam instruction to make it available to all students as a regular subject.

However, politicians involved with educational policy who no longer want to leave the field open to the mosques face a homemade problem: Where will the teachers come from, if only 2.3 percent of all Muslim high-school students finish school, and if the grades of these few high-school graduates aren't good enough to qualify for university admission?

Today there are only about 120 Islam teachers who teach in Germany, and 80 of them are in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia alone. Even there, eight times as many teachers are needed. And although a few dozen university students have already registered for Islamic religious studies programs in Münster, Erlangen and Osnabrück, it will take years before they graduate and are ready to teach.

Stop-Gap Measures

As an interim measure, Kaddor has developed a guideline for interacting with Muslim students. In the guideline she writes, for example, that from the Islamic perspective a girl can participate in swimming class -- wearing a full-body bathing suit, if necessary. She also writes that even strictly religious parents can be convinced to allow their children to go on class trips, as long as they are promised that the children will be able to pray and that they will not be forced to eat pork or drink alcohol. Of course, it doesn't hurt to reassure them that German parents are just as averse to sexual relations between boys and girls as Muslims.

In theory, teachers who have been giving "supplementary instruction in their native language" to immigrant children in German schools for decades could help out. But Turkey, for example, tends to send older men to Germany to provide this sort of instruction, men to whom their students' worlds are completely foreign and who usually speak no German. These teachers are also meant to provide some religious instruction, but more often than not they hand out maps of Turkey for the students to color, pull out the Turkish daily Hürriyet and spend the rest of the period reading the paper.

When Kaddor began teaching in Lohberg, some children believed that Muhammad was born in Istanbul and Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish nation, was a prophet.

Principal Herpers is now a convert to the new program: "Anyone who wants integration has to provide Islam instruction. We've ignored this for too long, but the Germans can't ..."

"I am German," says Kaddor.

"Yes, of course," says Herpers.

The teacher quickly organizes a stack of photocopies. Because a translation of the Koran suitable for schools doesn't exist, Kaddor simply went ahead and reorganized, translated and explained individual verses -- a rather revolutionary approach in the Islamic world. She hasn't had any trouble yet with the clerics at the mosques in Dinslaken. She hopes that this will not change when her Koran translation is published soon.

Today's discussion topic in her 10th-grade class is a difficult one: our understanding of God. According to Surah 112 of the Koran "He is the one God." " He begets not, nor is He begotten." The students look perplexed. What does beget mean, they wonder? "He can't have any children," Umut suggests. But why should God, especially God, not be able to do this? Lamya Kaddor reads her own translation out loud: "God had neither fathered children, nor was he fathered." The Surah, she says, alludes to Christians, who believe that God has a son who is also human.

"It's interesting, learning about other religions," says Gülçin, the only Shiite in the class. This has also been a topic of discussion, but in the end the students could not come up with a reasonable answer to the question of why Muslims elsewhere in the world are killing each other.

Another question that is currently on politicians' minds has long been resolved at the Glückauf School. "How would you feel if we did our Islam class in Turkish?" Kaddor once asked her students.

"No! German is incredibly important for us," Sibel said indignantly. "We have to learn to speak better, otherwise they won't take us later on, when we want to work." "I don't speak Turkish," said Sana, who is from Morocco. And then Hüseyin said: "Hey, guys, what's the deal? We are Germany!"

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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