• Islamic Education in Europe

    The growth of immigrant Muslim communities and the concern for the spread of extremism amongst Muslim youth has provided impetus for standardized education programs in Islam across nearly all of Western Europe. This need is currently being addressed through policies that reflect the unique political and cultural contexts currently surrounding Islam in each nation. While some countries make room for state-regulated Islamic programs alongside Christian, Catholic, and other religious education programs in public school settings, others opt instead to support private Islamic institutions in varying political and financial capacities. To support either approach, university programs for the training of imams and Islamic teachers has also become necessary. The diverse policies and levels of political and public support for Islamic education and imam training programs have resulted in varying degrees of effectively meeting this need.

    Examining each individual country’s approach to Islamic education in Europe is an important dimension of case-by-case integration analyses. However, looking at Islamic education as a transversal issue as well can open broader discussions around the identity transformations experienced by both Muslims and secular host societies as a result of the Western-Islamic encounter. It gives us the opportunity to analyze the impacts of the adjustments Islamic teachings must make to secular, Western environments, as well as the accommodations Western societies have made to incorporate Islam into democratic public spaces.

    The incorporation of Islamic education programs in public school systems will first be reviewed, since this status usually dictates the development of private Islamic school systems.

    Private institutions, which are usually responses to the level of public and political support provided for Islam in public school systems, will be examined next. Where they exist, the accessibility of government funding, state regulation of curriculums, curriculum content, and the official value of diplomas and degrees will be reviewed.

    Training levels of imams and Islamic teachers impact course quality and the reputation each program carries amongst local communities. Imam and teacher training programs will thus also be covered, including reviews of policies that shape the programs, curriculum content, facilitating organizations, levels of state support, enrollment, and teacher salaries.

    Islamic Education in Public Schools

    One of Western Europe’s most developed public Islamic education programs is in Austria, where religious education at public schools is a right of recognized churches and religious communities. Curriculum for all religious courses is therefore uniform and nationally approved, and the Austrian government provides funding for instruction. This regulation and financial support guarantees that religious education in Islam is not given outside the school in a way that evades the national educational system. As a result, only two of the 1,552 private schools are Islamic schools, and they are recognized in 2005-06 by the government as running in compliance with the Austrian Private School Law.1 Austria therefore has no problems with communities developing Islamic education programs outside of state regulations.

    Courses in Islam have been offered in Austrian public schools since 1983. The Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich (IGGIÖ), which established Islamic instruction in public schools, serves as the liaison between the state and public schools—organizing teachers, developing instruction (in German), and giving lessons. According to the organization, the purpose of the program is to improve students’ knowledge of Islam and to encourage them to reflect upon and discuss issues related to religious identity and living as a Muslim in Austria.

    Recent counts had some 37,000 children participate in Islamic education programs at 2,700 public schools across Austria, taught by 350 teachers. These numbers continue to rise.2 Muslim pupils at public schools do not have to attend lessons on Muslim holidays.

    In Belgium, the state supports instruction in any state recognized religion and non-denominational ethics, including Islam. The Muslim community therefore has the right to provide teachers at government expense for religious instruction.

    Since 1998, the Muslim Executive Council (MEC) in Belgium has facilitated the relationship between the state and public Islamic education. The state appoints teachers in Islam upon recommendation by the (MEC), and the MEC develops and submits curriculum to the state for approval.3 Belgian public school students under age 17 then have the option of participating in either the non-denominational ethics or religious classes offered, including those in Islam. Beyond age 17, these classes are voluntary. Since at least 1975, some students have been able to receive instruction in Islam through this system. It is important to note that one parent interviewed by the internet news service Mediascrape decided to send his child to the private Islamic Avicenna Islamic School, citing his primary concern as being the poor quality of public schools in the neighborhood.4

    In Denmark, public school religious education explores a number of different religions, and parents may choose to opt their children out of the programs. Muslim organizations have suggested that there should be cooperation between the education ministry and their organizations in Islamic curriculum development, but as of this writing, this had not yet taken place: traditions are primarily focused on Christianity.

    The French public education system is framed and regulated by the principle of laïcité and by the 1989 Law on Orientation in Education, which affirms the individual right to freedom of conscience. In practice, these two principles have come into conflict, particularly with regard to students belonging to religious minorities like Islam.

    It is a central objective and responsibility of French public schools to train students in Republican values including laïcité, and to ensure both equal treatment of individual pupils and respect for pluralism. As such, local officials have the competence to regulate the public expression of religious belonging in schools. The conflict over the banning of the hijab illustrates the tension between public space and private choices; the difficulties inherent in balancing the requirements of laïcité against the needs of Muslim students.

    In French primary schools, no religion course can be organized, whereas in secondary schools religion can be taught by chaplains (but not during the school timetable). However, as of 2004, no Islamic chaplaincy operated in any public secondary schools.5 In addition to this, the banning of the hijab in public schools has provided impetus for the establishment of independent Islamic schools in France.

    Policies concerning religious education vary considerably throughout Germany. In general, German practice is to provide denominational religious instruction in schools, and instruction is to be provided by religious communities under government supervision. By law, any community with a sufficient number of students may take part in this program.

    Although religious education at state schools is a constitutional right in Germany, it has been argued in public debate that these guarantees only apply to Christian religions, or “to the religions traditionally present within Western Europe, thus excluding Islam” (Robbers, 2000: 148). However, fearing that students who are not involved in state-supervised religious courses may be exposed to extremism in unsupervised Koran classes, there has been some impetus for authorities to take action by initiating Islamic religious lessons at public schools. Thus, various German federal states, religious instruction has been offered to children of the Islamic faith on a voluntary basis.6 Aside from Berlin schools, curriculum is required to exclude preaching of the faith and education of the faith.7

    It has still been difficult for Muslims to establish religious instruction due to regional governments failing to recognize Islam as a religious community, as there is no consensus organization. Muslim religious education lessons have generated great public controversy.8 Nonetheless, over the last few years some federal states have reached agreements with various Islamic groups concerning instruction. Alevites have been especially successful, and Turkish groups have also managed a small measure of success.

    Many states are also currently testing trial Islamic programs, including North-Rhine/Westphalia, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Schleswig-Holstein, Bremen, Lower Saxony, Bavaria, and Rhineland-Palatinate. In 2003, Bremen began conceptualizing its own courses in Islam for its public schools.9 10

    In March 2008, The German Conference on Islam under the chairmanship of Interior Minister Wolfgan Schäuble also called for a comprehensive introduction of the Islamic religion in public schools, to be taught in German. He emphasized that programs taught by teachers with degrees from German universities would promote integration.

    As part of this effort, Saphir, a textbook for fifth and sixth grade Islamic religious classes in Germany has been developed, with editions for grades seven through 10 underway as of November 2008. Issues covered include the concept of God, the life of the Prophet Mohammed, the structure of the Koran, social responsibility. Harry Harun Behr of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg says the book “does not aim to educate pupils to believe, but rather to make responsible decisions concerning faith.”11

    In Berlin, the Islamische Föderation (Islamic Federation) has been authorized to develop Islamic education programs alongside those voluntary programs in Christianity and and Lebenskunde (knowledge about life).12 Islamische Föderation achieved this after twenty years of court procedures.

    In 1980, the Islamic Federation petitioned Berlin school authorities to establish religious instruction in the city’s schools. In addition to others filed in 1983 and 1987, it was rejected. In March 1994, the Islamic Federation sued and won; Berlin’s Administrative Appeal Court ruled in 1998 that the Islamic Federation must be recognized as a religious community under section 23(1) of the Berlin Schools Act, since a religious community is defined by a consensus about faith and belief, regardless of whether the religion is organized as a public corporation or a private society. The court rejected the argument put forth by Berlin school authorities, which said that it could not deal with religions which were not organized or similar to public corporations. The Federal Administrative Court left it to the Berlin’s Appeal Court to interpret the meaning of “religious community” within the Berlin Schools Act. (UC Davis) On February 23, 2000, Germany’s highest court for administrative law, the Bundesverwaltungsgericht, ruled that Berlin’s Islamische Föderation may offer religious instruction in Berlin schools; although, Berlin school authorities must approve the curriculum. The organization began teaching at 20 Berlin public schools in Fall 2002, and extended courses to 37 elementary schools in Fall of 2004.13

    Since the introduction of Islamic instruction in Berlin, effects of the classes have spilled over into other parts of academic activities – school offices are often inundated with petitions to excuse girls from swimming, sports, and class field trips, based on religious grounds (NYT). The Islamische Föderation ran into trouble with the Berlin education ministry for allegedly disseminating pamphlets and forms to Muslim parents, advocating the exemption from their daughters from participating in co-educative classes.14

    There remains a great deal of skepticism among Berliners and about the Islamische Föderation and its public school program. It is regarded by the Verfassungsshutz (the internal Intelligence Service) as an extremist/Islamist organization15 and has also been sharply criticized by the media.16

    In Greece, the Treaty of Lausanne dictates that public schools should be established for children from the Muslim community in Western Thrace. Instruction is in both Turkish and Greek. Western Thrace also maintains two high schools to prepare Muslim students for higher level studies in Islamic theology. However, such instruction has not been available for communities of Muslims outside Thrace. And although Muslims are allowed to opt out of instruction in Greek Orthodoxy, various organizational issues sometimes make this difficult.

    In general the Muslim schools in Thrace are considered poor schools which handicap the ability of the students to succeed in the labor market. Recently, the Greek government has attempted to improve the educational opportunities of the members of the Muslim minority in Western Thrace. Economic incentives, preferential admissions policies at universities, and quota systems for jobs and schools have been instituted. However, the schools remain in poor condition, leading many Muslim families to send their children to the general public schools.

    Under Article 8, Paragraph 3 of the Italian constitution, all religious communities, including Islamic ones, may use the classrooms of state schools for religious education when the number of members of the concerned religious denomination is considerable, and when there are no available places of worship. The costs of such teaching is not with state funds, but paid by the religious community. An agreement with the Director of the Regional School Office is also necessary.17

    Under the Italian legal system, it is a legal requirement that schools provide Catholic religious education from an early age, though parents may opt their children out of this curriculum. The alternative to the Catholic education class is a non-religious alternativa class, in which material such as mythology legends and human rights are discussed – but a minority of parents opt for the alternativa curriculum.18 The presence of Catholic symbols, largely crucifixes in courtrooms, schools, hospitals, and other public buildings has drawn criticism and complaint in a number of court cases and lawsuits, and further accentuates the minority status of the religion of Islam.19

    Article 33 of the Italian constitution grants private citizens and organizations the right to found schools and educational institutes. As a result of the lack of public Islamic education programs, several foreign schools have been founded in Italy by governments of several Mediterranean states, including two by Libya (in Rome and Milan), and one by Egypt (in Milan).20

    In Spain, an agreement between the state and the Islamic Commission authorizes Islamic religious education in public schools. However, there has been little implementation of this right, as one of the ongoing debates in this issue is the state’s role in funding Islamic education in the public school system.

    However, since the change in government in 2004 there has been a noticeable shift in Spain’s approach to its Muslim minority. The new government has made efforts to implement the agreement and give equal treatment to Muslims in education. A pilot program of religious education is underway, with a more substantial implementation expected as more teachers are trained and other organizational difficulties are worked through.

    In the Netherlands, parents have the right to obtain religious education for their children in public schools Under the 1984 Dutch Education Act, but they must find and pay the teacher. Muslim parents use this legal opportunity only in exceptional cases.

    Some municipalities (like Rotterdam), however, subsidize religious education. School authorities retain the power to choose which language courses are taught in, which has limited the development of Islamic religious instruction.21

    Burqas and face coverings were recently banned in Amsterdam’s public schools. School authorities cited that the need for open student-teacher interaction superceded the need to wear a face covering. In 2003 at a higher vocational college in Amsterdam, three students were banned for wearing a face covering. However, the Equal Opportunities Committee (CGB) soon deemed the ban discriminatory. In 2005, the issue surfaced again when Parliament adopted a resolution urging the Government to ban the public wearing of face coverings. However, the integration minister stated that a comprehensive ban was not possible under the law—instead, he said that the ban may be permissible in case-specific scenarios such as in public schools.22

    The UK currently provides no instruction in Islam in public schools. However, local education authorities are able to support ethnic minority communities to set up supplementary schools, which provide education in the evening or on Saturdays, to maintain linguistic and cultural traditions.

    Discrimination and negative attitudes towards Islam have manifested in the Muslim experience of the mainstream education system London. For example, 32 percent of 110 polled Muslims in Hackney aged 15-25 surveyed by the North London Muslim Housing Association reported poor performance in school was sometimes attributed to the lack of familiarity and sensitivity of teachers concerning Islam. In addition, many reported that expectations concerning their achievement were low, and they were not encouraged to perform well. The FOSIS (Federation of Students Islamic Societies in UK and Ireland) cites reported incidents of verbal and physical abuse, threats, and alienation.23

    Private Islamic Schools

    While Islamic education programs in Belgium’s public schools have been developed, religious communities have also been given the right to establish private schools that are eligible for state funding. The first Belgian Islamic School was thus opened in fall of 2007.

    Located in Molenbeek, the Avicenna Islamic School is a private institution that receives no state subsidies. The school is theoretically open to Muslim and non-Muslim boys and girls, and the enrollment fee is 1,800 euros. It is not yet recognized by the state, so the school’s diplomas have no official state value. Graduating students must first pass a test by the Belgian public examination board to receive an officially-recognized certificate.

    According to De Standaard, the Islamic Platform League is the “driving force” behind the school. In its press release concerning the school’s opening, the League stated that in no way did it intend for the Avicenna School to be a “ghetto school.” Its mission is as follows: “to prepare the students for taking an active place in society, and ensure equal opportunities for emancipation for all students.”24

    Some see the school as a refuge for female students who wish to wear a headscarf without persecution, and some have expressed concern over the direction of the mosque’s political perspectives. Johan Leman of the Brussels Foyer Integration Centre describes the school’s affiliated mosque as “Islamist…it employs a conservative interpretation of the Koran, and adopts rigid stances as far as matters of faith are concerned.” Leman suggests however, that the mosque’s leaders, though very conservative, are concerned with practicing Islam within the limits of democracy, adding that they are certainly not militant.25

    In Denmark, where public Islamic education programs are lacking, religious communities may instead establish private schools and receive state funding of up to 85 percent of the budget if the curriculum and practice meet state guidelines. There are 18 Islamic schools in Denmark,26 about half of which are located in Copenhagen, and state funding covers up to 60 percent of the schools’ expenses. Parents pay the remainders of the schools’ costs each month.27

    In 2002, the requirements for private school state funding were amended to ensure funded schools prepare students to “live in a society characterized by freedom and democracy.” Regulation and supervision were also increased, and private schools were required to hew more closely to the public school curriculum. This caused protests among independent schools.

    In France, the governing secularizing concept of laïcité in public schools means that private institutions are the only option for communities seeking Islamic education programs. In addition to laïcité, the debate over the hijab has further developed a demand for the establishment of state-approved private Islamic schools.

    In theory, the Debré Law of 1959 introduced two possibilities for French Muslim private schools to receive state funding, along with the many Catholic and Jewish parochial schools:28 the simple contract (contrat simple) and the contract of association (contrat d’association). Under a simple contract, staff expenses are covered by the state for teachers and state-accredited professors. Though private schools with a simple contract have some autonomy in determining the content of their curricula, they are still obligated to educate students at comparable academic levels to schools offering official state accredited degrees. They must also assign authorized textbooks and develop curriculums and schedules similar to those in public schools. The contract of association allows for more significant financial support: the state pays for staff expenses and also for material expenses on the basis of costs in the public sector. It also allows more freedom in defining the content of the curriculum. Under either contract, a school cannot officially benefit from public financial support of more than 10 percent of their annual expenses.

    Despite the Debré Laws, state support for private Islamic schools has only recently been acquired by a few institutions. The lack of representative bodies capable of negotiating for state funding, lack of long-standing and established schools, lack of suitable instructors, and the current political climate surrounding Islam in France have all been cited as reasons government funding remains difficult to obtain.29 Because so many low-income Muslim families are unable to cover the full cost of tuition and fees, religious education of young Muslims is generally provided independently outside of school hours either by the family at home or by associations and mosques in the framework of Koranic courses.

    The few existing private Islamic institutions include one school on the island of Réunion (the only institution under contract of association), established several decades ago; two in the northeast Paris suburb of Aubervilliers, established in 2001;30 one in Lille, established in 2003, and Lyon’s lycée college Al Kindi, established in March 2007. None of these institutions is under either type of state contract.31

    France’s newest Islamic private school, Éducation et Savoir, opened its doors in the Parisian suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne) in March 2008. The school offered one primary education class for the 2007-2008 school year, and has plans to accommodate 40 high school students through Spring 2009. In addition to state-mandated curriculum, the school will offer classes on Arabic and Islam. Private donors and associations in France have funded the school. Still, school director Mahmoud Awwad claims that their biggest challenge has not been obtaining an operation license, but obtaining funding.32

    La Reussite Islamic School, one of the two Aubervilliers institutions, is also experiencing severe financial issues. Declining enrollment and the school’s resultant inability to cover expenses may force it to close its doors in February 2009.33

    This increasing, unmet demand for affordable, quality Islamic education in France is currently fostering a new trend: the growth of Muslim enrollment in private Catholic schools. Educators estimate that Muslims now make up nearly 10 percent of France’s Catholic school student body. Many families report feeling like the Catholic Church better understands and is more tolerant toward Islam than the French state, as it recognizes Muslim holidays, offers optional Arabic classes, and allows girls to wear the hijab. The schools cite that these measures seek to steer many students from unsupervised Koran classes that may teach radical Islam.

    Many parents say they have chosen the schools because they believe they all “share the same God.” They also believe the schools better prepare students for college and career success, and it is affordable: the French state subsidizes teachers’ salaries and portion of each student’s cost in Catholic schools, leaving tuition at only €1,400 to €1,800 annually.34

    In Germany, Article 7, section 4 of the German Basic Law established the right to operate private schools with government approval. However, the percentage of Germans that attend private schools is relatively low when compared to other European nations.35 In Germany, according to the Central Institute of Islamic Archives in Germany, less than 20 percent of all Muslim school children attend Koran schools.36

    In Berlin in June 2004, Muslims and non-Muslims joined forces and founded the Muslimische Akademie with the support of the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Federal Agency for Civic Education). The aims of the academy were to encourage the participation of Muslims, and offer an independent forum for inter- and intra-religious dialogue.37

    In March 2006, acts of violence in the Rütli-Schule Hauptschule, a secondary school in the Neukölln district school with an over 80 percent immigrant (mainly Muslim) student body, had made conducting class impossible, and the head of the school wrote a plea to the Senator for Education for immediate help. Several politicians used the incident to promote selective deportations of foreign juvenile defenders. The incident attracted international media coverage and once again opened the debate on the German approaches to dealing with Islam in public space.38

    Due to linguistic differences of students, many teachers in Germany and especially Berlin hold unregulated, private Koran lessons in Turkish or Arabic, often behind closed doors. The fear that students like these who are not involved in state-supervised religious courses may be exposed to extremism has created some impetus for authorities to take action by initiating Islamic religious lessons at German public schools.

    In Italy, Article 33 of the Italian constitution grants private citizens and organizations the right to found schools and educational institutes. Several “foreign” schools have been founded in Italy by governments of several Mediterranean states, including two by Libya (in Rome and Milan), and one by Egypt (in Milan), which host Muslim students.39

    In 2005, an Islamic school in Milan was closed, citing hygienic problems as the official reason. The media however, put stress on the idea that famous Islamic terrorists were suspected to have attended the school.40

    In Spain, reciprocal relationships between the state and religious organizations facilitate the funding of independent schools. Despite this, Muslims are arguing that Catholic schools receive preferential treatment in state support.

    However, there has been a noticeable shift in the state’s approach to the Muslim minority since 2004’s transition in government. The new government has made efforts to give equal treatment to Muslims in education. A pilot program of religious education is underway, with a more substantial implementation expected as more teachers are trained and other organizational difficulties are addressed.

    Sweden allows for independently run confessional schools, including that of Muslim religious schools. These schools are subject to follow guidelines, including the fundamentals of democracy and all world religions.41

    A documentary in the spring of 2003 critiquing the educational practices of the free schools generated extensive debate. The National Agency for Education investigated the situation and found little evidence of misbehavior, but some of mismanagement. It responded by increasing its oversight of the schools.

    In the Netherlands, the Dutch constitutional freedom of education allows religions to open their own schools at the state’s expense. The Dutch state thus recognizes and finances 37 Islamic primary schools and one secondary school in Rotterdam, established in August 2000. The majority of the day in these schools must offer courses that follow a national curriculum, and a few hours per week may be allotted to religious lessons and ceremonies. In the beginning of the 2007 academic year, all Dutch Islamic primary schools were provided with an official Islamic teaching curriculum for pupils ages 4 through 12.

    The new curriculum, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, was first presented at the As-Soeffah School in Amsterdam. The methodology and curriculum were developed by the Foundation for Teaching Methods (SLO) and the Board of Islamic Schools Organization (ISBO) – an umbrella organization of forty-two Muslim schools in the Netherlands. In the 2007 academic year, all 42 of the ISBO schools as well as 4 other Islamic schools in the Netherlands began to apply the new material.42

    As of 2002, Amsterdam housed eight private Islamic primary schools and one secondary school. According to the Schools Inspectorate, seven of the eight Islamic primary schools performed well in promoting integration and social cohesion in Dutch society. The eighth primary school – the Siddieq School, founded in 1989, was the only school that was cited as needing “a better balance between passing identity-bounded norms and values, and norms that ease the participation of pupils in Dutch society.”43

    In November 2008, the Dutch education ministry confirmed that 86 percent of Islamic schools had been using state funds fraudulently. Illegal expenditures uncovered in recent investigations included paychecks for wives of board members who pretended to be teachers, transportation that was never purchased or used, and plane tickets to Saudi Arabia for individuals completely unaffiliated with the schools. The education ministry is pursuing an estimated 4.5 million euros from schools. They have also pledged to increase state oversight of programs.44

    In the UK, local education authorities are able to support ethnic minority communities to set up independent “supplementary” schools on evenings and Saturdays, which provide education in the evening or on Saturdays to maintain linguistic and cultural traditions of immigrant populations.

    Religious communities have a right to establish their own independent schools. Such schools must be registered with the Registrar of Independent Schools and must meet certain minimum standards. In England and Wales, there has traditionally been State funding for Church of England, Catholic, and Jewish faith schools. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, there has traditionally been state funding for Catholic schools. Since 1997, the Labour government has extended this funding to other minority faith schools, including Muslim schools.

    At present there is state funding of seven Muslim schools, among them: Al Furqan School in Birmingham, Islamia School in London and Feversham College in Bradford. Nevertheless, it has been suggested that there is a “significant interest” among about 30 of England’s 120 independent Muslim schools to enter the state sector, and the government has indicated that the number of faith schools in the UK could increase in the coming years.45

    Proposals to increase the role of faith schools in the state education sector have generated much debate. Some are worried about the consequences of having an increased number of faith schools in the UK.46) The Commission for Racial Equality has expressed concern that single faith schools could damage multiculturalism, and the Cantle Report cautioned that the funding of faith schools would increase social segregation between different minority communities. One response to this is a proposal by faith communities for “multi-faith” schools that would appreciate faith but would not be targeted at a particular faith.

    In January 2008, a House of Commons select committee raised concerns about the government’s proposals to increase the number of independent faith schools in the UK.47) These proposals remain a lively topic of conversation in the UK today.

    The government remains committed to increasing the role of faith schools in the State sector but has said that new faith schools will have to “demonstrate how they will be inclusive and work in partnership with other schools.” The government recently rejected a proposal in the Cantle Report that at least 25 percent of the intake in a faith school reflect the other cultures and ethnicities within the local area, but they want to “encourage all schools to ensure that their intake reflects the local community in all their diversity.”

    Of the over 120 Muslim schools in Britain, at least 37 are in London. In London, the debate around Muslim-only schools and other faith-based schools continues to generate deliberations both in and outside of Muslim communities. The debate concerns the ability for faith-based schools to receive state (and tax-generated) funding; however, schools may only do so after proving they have qualified staff, facilities, and teaching curriculum.

    Parents and community provide the funding for the majority of these schools, while the Waqf Al-Birr Educational Trust and the UK Islamic Waqf have made financial contributions to others.48 Some Muslim parents and communities have concern that mainstream schools are unable to fulfill the desired path of learning; concerns include the underachievement of Muslim pupils, lack of appropriate facilities and curriculum, policies that may be insensitive to Islamic belief, and the increase of exclusionary feelings among Muslim students.49

    Imam and Teacher Training Programs

    Austria maintains a fairly organized, well-regulated teacher training program for its public Islamic education system. During its inception in the 1980s, about fifty teachers participated in Islamic religious education. During this time the lack of German language skills as well as the educational approach of the assigned teachers was cause for parental criticism of teachers and school authorities. Deemed an unsatisfactory situation,50 the IGGIÖ responded by installing the Islamic Religion-Educational Academy, a private teachers’ training college modeled after the Austrian religion-educational academies in 1999. The mission of the academy is clearly defined: it provides “scientifically founded and practice-oriented vocational training in educational and social relations fields.” Through partnership with a public pedagogical college, the academy offers a three-year teacher training program.

    In a September 2004 newspaper article, an umbrella organization for Turkish associations in Austria claimed they received numerous complaints from parents about the instruction in Islam at public schools, suggesting that poorly trained teachers were seeking to spread inflammatory ideas. The president of IGGIÖ responded by rejecting the allegations as unfounded and defamatory, although he admitted he is not able to personally oversee all Islamic classes organized throughout Austria. In a separate statement, IGGIÖ emphasized that it greatly appreciates the way instruction in Islam is organized in Austria and that it takes its responsibility to the system seriously. IGGIÖ added that it is engaged in continuing efforts to ensure and improve the quality of instruction, supporting the Islamic Religion-Educational Academy and appointing a commission to develop a new curriculum for instruction in Islam that offers teachers “practical and detailed guidance.”

    Today, there are about 350 Islamic religious teachers throughout Austria, most of whom are from Bosnia and Turkey.51 Teachers work primarily in public schools, act according to a uniform curriculum, and teach in German language. These measures help guarantee that Islamic religious education is not conducted outside of the national educational system.

    In Belgium, the MEC has been unable to channel state funding toward Islamic schooling due to ongoing conflicts with the state. State subsidies for the training of imams and Islamic education programs thus fall far behind educational subsidies for Belgium’s other recognized religions.52

    In Denmark, local governments became aware of the need for a customized approach to Muslim families with school-aged children in their communities in the 1970s, although a religious approach to education of Muslim populations has yet to be taken. Teacher education programs, including training colleges, postgraduate training, and refresher courses, place emphasis on “education of the foreign-language pupils in Danish public schools.”53 The term “foreign-language pupils” was eventually changed to “bilingual pupils” in both official documents and research discourse. Research on the education of bilingual children addresses topics such as religion, mother-tongue education, cultural background, second-language acquisition, gender roles, and the structure of a Muslim family. The research on bilingual education began in the 1980s and has continued steadily since.54

    In France, the lack of qualified teaching staff and the need to provide training to imams have become increasingly important issues and caused concern for French governments and Muslim communities since the beginning of the 1990s.

    Imam training became the first task delegated to the French Council of the Muslim Religion. In January 2008, The Catholic Institute of Paris, in conjunction with the Grande Mosque of Paris, began a government-sponsored secularization project. 25 student imams took part in the two-semester courses to complete their religious training. The course, entitled “Religions, Secularism, Interculturality” will offer 400 hours of accredited instruction in four subject areas – general culture, legislative matters, openness and the human sciences, and intercultural exchange. It will include a history of “republican values’; examination of the rights and obligations of religion in France; exploration of religion’s relation to the human sciences; studies of French secular tradition, readings of Enlightenment philosophers, and grammar studies.

    The course aims to fill a gap in cultural understanding that is believed to exist between France’s foreign-born imams and the country’s primarily French-born Muslim population. It also seeks to ensure imams teach a moderate Islam that is in touch with French values.55

    Despite these seeming advances, the program has not been met without opposition: the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF) which operates non-accredited centers of its own, and members of the Grand Mosque itself object to the program. There is also the fact that this is, as yet, a voluntary course, open only to those qualified for study at the university level. This approach excludes radical imams like Abdelkader Bouziane, and the hundreds of other makeshift or homegrown clerics currently on the radar of security agencies.56

    Aside from this, attempts to develop a national program have been unsuccessful. The European Institute of Human Sciences (supported by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France) was founded in Nièvre, but has hardly operated. Similarly, the Paris Mosque Theology Institute has hosted only a few students. In September 2006, the Machelon Commission (a commission charged by the Prime Minister with the examination of some legal issues concerning the relations between the State and religious denominations) suggested the creation of a State-funded institute of Islamic theology in Strasbourg.57

    According to the King Baudoin Foundation survey in 2003 of approximately 1000 imams, just over half are permanent residents and less than half receive regular salaries, while a third speak little or no French. The poor training and low salaries of imams are seen as contributing to a possibly extremist subculture among Muslims in France. Conversations between the Muslim Council and the government have promised to remedy this situation with new regulations and increased imam training programs at universities.58

    In March 2008, The German Conference on Islam under the chairmanship of Interior Minister Wolfgan Schäuble called for a comprehensive introduction of the Islamic religion in public schools, to be taught in German. Muslim teachers with the language skills and experience needed to teach Islamic religious courses, however, are lacking. As of November 2008, there were only about 500 teachers in the entire country, with an estimated 750,000 Muslim pupils—about 10 percent of what is required to meet the demand.59

    To help with this shortage and promote more equal treatment of Muslims at German schools, the University of Münster created a course on Islamic religious teaching in 2005. Münster was the first German university that developed such a course and allowed for the qualifying of teachers for Islamic religious education. Professor Muhammad Sven Kalisch was appointed professor for Islamic Sciences for the subject “Religion des Islam”.

    Dr. Harun Behr was appointed professor chair for “Islamic religious teaching” at Bayreuth University in March 2006, offering an extension course on “Arabic, Koran, and the doctrine of Islam, history of selected Islamic cultural spheres, traditions of thought and law, Islam in Europe and Germany, teaching religion, and religious sciences.”60 A course offered at Frankfurt University leads to a Masters degree that allows students to work as imams in mosques or as teachers of Islam at public schools.61

    Programs have also recently been developed at universities in Osnabrück and Erlangen.62 The University of Osnabruck’s program began educating Islamic religious teachers through its Masters program, “Islamic Religious Education” (Islamische Religionspädagogik). However, by 2007 only four students had enrolled. Twenty unqualified applicants from Turkey were rejected from the program.63

    There has been increased political pressure for the training of more imams in German universities, championed by Claudia Roth of the Green Party. Islamic training programs have thus been developed at three more major institutions: the Muslimische Akademie für Religiöse und Soziale Bildung, DITIB, and the Institut für Islamishe Bildung. Programs at several other smaller institutions are also being developed.

    In Berlin, the Sufi organization Institut Buhara opened a privately funded school to train imams, attempting to address what German Muslims describe as “a lack of clergymen who speak German and possess the requirements needed for carrying out the future of Islam in Germany.” The new school, Berlin’s Centre for Education, Training, and Culture, plans to begin their six-year training course in February 2009.

    Right-wing political parties and activists oppose the school, publicly accusing it of “Islamic brainwashing” and describing it as an unsupervised, radical Koran school. However, Institut Buhara maintains that they seek ultimately to “build a bridge between Islamic doctrine and today’s society in order to encourage young people to live together peacefully with European culture.”64

    In Italy, the Muslim Universities League approved a program in 1996 to train imams and female social workers. Italy’s Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations also planned for the establishment of an educational center in Bologna to train imams and leaders of the Islamic community; however, neither of these attempts has been successful.65

    In Spain, the government disagreed over the type of certification deemed adequate to teach Islam in schools on the predominantly Muslim islands of Ceuta and Melila. The Spanish government wants religious education teachers to receive the same level of certification as teachers in secular public schools. However, further information on the development of career programs for imams and Islamic religious teachers is currently unavailable.

    An Islamic Academy has been established for the training of imams in Sweden, though no imams have yet graduated from the program. The government is however supportive of training imams in Sweden as part of efforts to facilitate successful integration.66

    In the Netherlands, educational partnerships between the state and Muslims have been developing to further imam training programs, such as the 2005 founding of an Islamic institute by a coalition of Muslim organizations in partnership with individual university programs. The Free University in Amsterdam also developed a Master’s-level course for Islamic spiritual caregivers in 2005, providing imams with formal education in Dutch culture and Christianity.67 The state subsidizes education for local citizens who desire to become imams. Dutch officials also require all imams and other religious leaders to complete a year-long integration course before they are allowed to practice. This helps counteract what the government fears is a barrier to Muslim integration.

    The governments of Turkey and Morocco (to a lesser degree) are influential partners in Islamic education institutions. Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs has appointed imams to the 140 Turkish mosques in the Netherlands.68

    At the beginning of the 2007 school year, all Dutch Islamic primary schools will have access to an official teaching curriculum about Islam, for pupils between the ages of four and twelve. The curriculum, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, was first presented at the As-Soeffah School in Amsterdam. The method in the teaching lessons was developed by the Foundation for Teaching Methods (SLO) and the Board of Islamic Schools Organization (ISBO) – an umbrella organization of forty-two Muslim schools in the Netherlands. In the 2007 academic year, all 42 of the ISBO schools as well as four other Islamic schools in the Netherlands will begin to apply the new study material.69

    Programs also exist at the privately funded Islamic University of Rotterdam (IUR) and an Islamic University of Europe in Schiedam, as well as some smaller training institutes. There is also a four-year training program in the Education Faculty of Amsterdam to train teachers for secondary schools.

    Among nationwide Dutch initiatives, Amsterdam has been active in making religious instruction available to residents. The Vriji Universiteit Amsterdam, or Amsterdam’s Free University has begun cycles of course work in theology, in order to accommodate the installation of a school for imams. In 2005, a Masters course for Islamic spiritual caregivers started was offered to encourage religious leaders to have a more formal and accredited background.70

    In the UK, the Muslim College in London (established in 1981), trains imams, as well as the Markfield Institute of Higher Education in Leicestershire, with an ambitious set of courses which was established in 2000. The Al-Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Scotland also offers a Masters degree in Islamic Education. Program themes include “assessing the educational modernization in the Muslim world, specific educational challenges facing Muslim Diaspora in Europe and British Muslims in particular such as faith based schooling, underachievement of Muslim children and their educational needs in the mainstream educational system, developing educational intervention programs to tackle religious extremism among British Muslim.”71

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    2. Schmied, Martina, Islamische Gemeinschaften als Schulerhalter, in: Religionen unterwegs 1 (2003), p. 25f. []
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    4. “Muslim School Controversy” (online newscast) Mediascape (14 September 2007). Available online: http://www.mediascrape.com/News/ViewNewsItem.aspx?newsItemId=32500&rootVideoPanelType=1 []
    5. Basdevant-Gaudemet B. and Frégosi F., “L’Islam en France” in Potz R. and Wieshaider W. Islam and the European Union (Peeters: Leuven, 2004): 175-176; cited in European Parliament, Policy Department Structural and Cohesion Policies. Islam in the European Union: What’s at Stake in the Future? May 2007 (hereinafter EP): 112. []
    6. Sen, Faruk/ Hayrettin Aydin, Islam in Deutschland (Islam in Germany) (Munich 2002), 95. []
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    8. Ilka Mohr, Lehrtexte für den islamischen Religionsunterricht aus Nordrhein-Westfalen, Wien und Rotterdam. Beispiel muslimischer Selbstverortung im Vergleich (Teaching Texts for the Islamic Religious Education from Nordrhein-Westfalen, Vienna and Rotterdam. Examples of Muslim Self-Perception in Comparison) (Berlin 2004); Wehner, Marlies, Die öffentliche Debatte über den Islamischen Religionsunterricht: Über den Umgang mit einer religiösen Minderheit. (The public debate over Islamic Religious Education. Dealing with a religious minority) (2000): www.amana-online.de/pp/aa/iru_mw_01.shtml []
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    16. See, for example: Die schleichende Islamisierung: Schulalltag in Berlin” (The creeping Islamisation: the everyday schoolday in Berlin), in: Die Tageszeitung (1 December 2004): http://demo.ebiz-today.de/gesellschaft/islam,149,Die_schleichende_Islamisierung_Schulalltag_in_Berlin,news.htm []
    17. European Parliament: Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union. Islam in the European Union: What’s at Stake in the Future? Page 131. 2007. Available at: http://www.euro-islam.info/spip/IMG/Islam_in_Europe_EN.pdf []
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    20. European Parliament: Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union. Islam in the European Union: What’s at Stake in the Future? Page 129. 2007. Available at: http://www.euro-islam.info/spip/IMG/Islam_in_Europe_EN.pdf []
    21. Marechal B., Allievi, S., Dassetto F., And Nielsen J. 48; qtd. in EP 144. []
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    24. Paraphrase quoted from De Standaard article. []
    25. Dept. of State, 2004. []
    26. “Freedom of Religion and Religious Communities in Denmark.” []
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    32. (Islam Online 2008). []
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    39. European Parliament: Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union. Islam in the European Union: What’s at Stake in the Future? Page 129. 2007. Available at: http://www.euro-islam.info/spip/IMG/Islam_in_Europe_EN.pdf []
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    53. OSI 16; “It should be noted that there are also a number of private schools in Denmark, which have to meet certain basic judicial requirements set by the Ministry of Education.” []
    54. OSI, 16 []
    55. http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2008-03/2008-03-09-voa19.cfm?CFID=94934392&CFTOKEN=17836266&jsessionid=843047d049cdc3b0cdef253f14a5d4755526 []
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    58. “La formation des imams en France doit être améliorée” Agence-France Presse 2 August 2005. In January 2008, La Catho (Catholic University of Paris) will launch a diploma on “Religion, laïcité, interculturalité” where imams and students from the Institute of Theology of the Grande Mosquee de Paris will be trained. Public universities, such as Universities of Paris I and Paris VIII previously refused to open such a diplomas. []
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    70. EP 39, 162. []
    71. www.almi.abdn.ac.uk/cmsimages/LEAFLETS%20IN%20PDF/Islamic%20Education.pdf []