Cablegate: German State Pioneers Islamic Instruction in the Schools

DE RUEHFT #3463/01 3291346
R 241346Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

SUBJECT: German State Pioneers Islamic Instruction in the Schools

1. Summary: In 2006 the southern German state of Baden Wuerttemberg
became the first state in Germany to offer Islam, alongside
Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism, as a subject for religious
instruction in some public schools, reflecting the state's
recognition of Islam's place in society and allowing Muslim school
children to receive the same type of religious instruction as their
non-Muslim peers. Baden-Wuerttemberg continues to train more
primary school teachers to expand the program, while other states
look to B-W as a model for creating their own Islamic studies
programs. The Muslim community has slowly overcome its skepticism
of teaching Islam outside the mosque, recognizing that public
Islamic education is a potent symbol of the religion's equal
standing in society. End Summary.

A Pilot Islamic Education Program

2. Islamic instruction courses are currently offered in 12 public
schools across Baden-Wuerttemberg for children ages six to 10. The
classes offer a way for Muslim children, with their parents'
permission, to learn about their religion in courses similar to ones
offered to Christian and Jewish children, which have been a part of
the German public school system since the end of the World War II.
Since the program was created, the Stuttgart Pedagogic University
has designed an Islam instruction course and implemented teacher
training. Teachers must be Muslim, and must teach other subjects in
addition to Islamic instruction.

3. Religious instruction in German pubic schools is considered an
expression of religious freedom, and is typically organized by
religious communities that have public law corporation status.
Since no one Muslim organization has been recognized as representing
the Muslim community writ large, no Islamic entity has public law
corporation status. This has hindered the development of Islamic
instruction in Germany. In Baden-Wuerttemberg alone there are more
than 30 Muslim organizations, none of which speaks for the whole

4. Baden-Wuerttemberg has overcome this hurdle, at least
temporarily, by taking on the role usually played by the religious
public bodies, including establishing teacher qualification
requirements and designing curricula. Many mosques were reportedly
initially skeptical of public religious instruction, arguing that
Koranic instruction should be offered in the mosque in the native
language of the minority group, not in German as is the case in
Baden Wuerttemberg public schools. In addition, the Baden
Wuerttemberg program offers Islamic instruction only in elementary
schools, whereas instruction in other religions is offered through
graduation. Expanding Islamic instruction to secondary schools
would require a greater number of teachers and types of instruction.
In 2010, Baden Wuerrtemberg will be required to find a counterpart
in the Islamic religious community to take over the responsibility
of continuing the Islamic education program.

Islamic Education as a Force of Integration

5. The lack of Islamic education in German schools is another
symbol of Islam's outlier status in German society. While their
Catholic, Protestant and Jewish peers attend religious instruction
as part of their normal curriculum, the ever-growing number of
Muslim students must attend other non-religious classes during this
part of the school day. One university student taking an Islamic
instruction course at the Ludwigsburg Teacher Training College
explained his motivations for wanting to teach Islam to PolOff and
PolSpec, saying that his Koranic instruction as a child in the
mosque had been based on memorization and recitation. He learned
about Islam from an imam who spoke no German and lived in Germany
for only a few years before returning to Turkey. He hoped to teach
Islam in German in a way that was practical and relevant to students
with a future in modern German society. Pol Off and Pol Spec
briefly attended a class at the college where a Moroccan imam
resident in Germany gave an analytical lecture in German on teaching
children the story of how the texts of the Koran were gathered into
one book.

6. The organizers of the teacher training at the college reported
that leaders of the largest mosques in Stuttgart are now more in
favor of the pilot project, having seen its tangible benefits, and
are now encouraging parents to send their children to the classes.
For the mosques, the project not only offers an additional platform
for young Muslims to learn about their identity, but it puts Islam
on equal footing with other religions in the public forum.
Non-Muslim students also learn to understand and accept Islam as
Muslim students educate the broader student body through holiday and
other activities. The success of the program has prompted the
neighboring state of Rheinland-Pfalz to allow its teachers to train
in Islamic education in Baden-Wuerttemberg's small program. Hesse
and Saarland have as yet been unable to overcome the challenge of
finding a Muslim organization to act as a counterpart.

7. COMMENT: Islamic education has fostered integration in

FRANKFURT 00003463 002 OF 002

Baden-Wuerttemberg by bringing Islam out of the mosque, where few
non-Muslims go, into the public school system. The classes raise
awareness about Islam and put the religion on more equal footing
with religions having deeper roots in Germany. Significant hurdles
remain, as the state still must grapple with the challenge of having
no proper counterpart in the Muslim community with which to
coordinate its efforts beyond the year 2010. END COMMENT.

8. This cable was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

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