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Cablegate: Germany's Federal States Wrestle with Introduction

VZCZCXRO1756
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHRL #0993/01 2251608
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131608Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4946
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BERLIN 000993

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS
PASS TO IVAN WEINSTEIN AND JENNIFER ELDRIDGE, EUR/PGI
PASS TO NANCY HEWETT, EUR/DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: GM KIRF KISL PGOV PHUM
SUBJECT: GERMANY'S FEDERAL STATES WRESTLE WITH INTRODUCTION
OF ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS EDUCATION CLASSES

REF: BERLIN 845

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) This cable provides an overview of German state
programs to introduce Islamic religious education at high
school and university levels. Since the 3rd plenary meeting
of the German Islam Conference in June 2008, Germany's
federal states -- with varying degrees of engagement and
success -- have embarked on a path of ensuring that Islamic
religious instruction can be provided at public schools.
Successive German Islam Conferences, launched under the aegis
of the Ministry of Interior and chaired by Minister of the
Interior Wolfgang Schaeuble have attempted to draw up plans
to formalize religious education in public schools and set up
Islamic theology departments at universities. Only a few
schools offer Islamic religious education classes, but pilot
programs to increase levels of religious instruction in
public schools and universities look promising. However,
many of Germany's federal states are still lagging behind in
their efforts to offer Islamic religious instruction,
suggesting that the principal messages of previous German
Islam conferences have not been fully heard nor implemented.
End summary.

GERMAN ISLAM CONFERENCE AND ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (U) One of the major conclusions of the 4th Plenary of
the German Islam Conference in June 2009 (see REFTEL) was an
agreement that Islamic religious instruction be introduced as
a regular subject to be taught in the German language at
German public schools. The 3rd plenary meeting of the German
Islam Conference in 2008 laid the groundwork for this
development by formulating the necessary prerequisites and
options for the introduction of Islamic religious
instruction, provided there was a consensus amongst all
parties involved and Germany's legal situation was taken into
account. A study published by the Federal Office for
Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in 2009 -- commissioned by the
Ministry of Interior for the German Islam Conference --
exposes several challenges the federal states will face as
they attempt, in some cases, to begin offering Islamic
religious instruction, and in others to enhance existing
programs.

3. (U) According to the BAMF study, 25 per cent of Muslim
school children attend ethics lessons, 5 per cent attend
Catholic and 3 per cent Protestant religious education
lessons respectively, and 11 per cent Islamic religious
education when offered. More than half of the Muslim pupils
attend no religious education or ethics lessons. This may be
due to the fact that there are not enough classes. This
assumption is supported by the fact that the majority of the
Muslims (76 per cent) advocate the introduction of Islamic or
Alevite religious education. The number of those who are in
support of such measures is particularly high among the
Sunnis (84 per cent) and a little lower among the Shiites (71
per cent), the Ahmadis (79 per cent) and the other Islamic
denominations (69 per cent). Only 54 per cent of Alevites are
in favor of introducing Islamic religious education as a
school subject. Alevites were also asked whether they were in
favor of the introduction of separate Alevite religious
education in state schools. 64 per cent of Alevites answered
in the affirmative. The same study also concluded that
between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims currently live in
Germany, a much higher number than anticipated. Expressed as
a percentage of Germany's total population of around 82
million, the proportion of Muslims is between 4.6 and 5.2 per
cent.

NORTH RHINE WESTPHALIA - LEADING THE WAY
----------------------------------------

4. (U) Over the last decade, Germany's 16 federal states
have achieved different levels of progress in providing
Islamic religious education. Some have made no attempt to
implement programs, but many have achieved quite impressive
results, and several are beginning to follow the leading
states' examples. The programs vary from large scale, long
standing, multi-school projects to plans on the drawing
board, just beginning to take root. The most successful
projects at the moment are in the state of North-Rhine
Westphalia (NRW). More than 8,000 Muslim students at 128
schools have been provided with Islamic religious education
("Islamkunde-Unterricht") since 1999.

BERLIN 00000993 002 OF 003

5. (U) The success of this pilot project led to a
state-wide introduction of German language religion courses,
compulsory for Muslim students to achieve promotion,
beginning in the summer of 2010. This program will be led by
50 teachers, specially trained in Germany, who will follow a
curriculum defined by the NRW Ministry for Schools and
supervised by the German school supervisory board. In NRW,
Muenster University was implementing plans to develop the
state's first academic center and chair -- under the
leadership of Professor Muhammad Sven Kalisch -- for training
school teachers to conduct Islamic religious instruction.
Unfortunately, Germany's Muslim Coordination Council (KRM)
withdrew from the advisory board of Professor Kalisch's
center as it did not agree with Kalisch's religious
teachings. At present, Muenster University hopes to
establish a second chair. NRW has no state-run Imam training
programs. Private Imam training in NRW is conducted by the
Association of Islamic Cultural Centers (VIKZ), affiliated
with some 700 mosques throughout Germany.

LOWER SAXONY - IMPLEMENTING PROGRAMS WITH MIXED SUCCESS
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (U) Since 2003, 29 public elementary schools in Lower
Saxony have participated in an Islamic education pilot
project. Unfortunately, there have been low levels of
participation; out of the 18,462 Muslim children attending
elementary school in the state, only 1,121 were involved in
the project. This has been caused by the fact that many
Muslim families find public schools too liberal, preferring
mosques to conduct Muslim education. Since 2007, there has
been a master's program in Islamic education at Osnabrueck
University, but this also attracted little interest; only
four qualified students participated that year (20
unqualified applicants from Turkey were rejected). Imam
training with 4-5 chairs for 50-80 prospective students will
only begin at Osnabrueck University in five years time at the
earliest.

BAVARIA, HAMBURG AND HESSE - PERENNIAL PLANNING
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (SBU) In March 2009, the Bavarian government was
prompted to offer Islamic instruction in German as a
five-year pilot project after a successful trial period in
two schools in Erlangen. There are curricula for all school
levels, with the one for high school being a modified version
of the others. Private plans to establish an Imam-training
academy in Munich over the next five to ten years are in
place. This training would be in German regardless of the
origin of the future Imam and is designed to engender
commitment to the values of the German constitution.

8. (U) In Hamburg, Islamic religious education remains in
the planning stages with no concrete information available as
to when and where it will be implemented. Islamic education
instructors will eventually receive training at the Academy
of World Religions in Hamburg as foreseen by a current
project carried out by the World Religions Dialogue
Interdisciplinary Center at Hamburg University. Segments of
the Muslim community in Hamburg are critical of the prospect
of Islamic education conducted at public schools, as opposed
to offerings provided by mosques. In September 2008, a
private Turkish secondary school "Alsterring" supported by
the educational institute Alsterbildungsring e.V. and backed
financially by a Turkish businessman was opened for all
students. However, at present the school consists of only
one class with nineteen students, all of whom have a Turkish
background raising fears that such initiatives may be harmful
for the state's integration efforts. In Bremen, a pilot
project established in 2003/2004 was established to provide
Islamic religious instruction in one school.

9. (U) In Hesse, there is an initiative by the Culture
Minister to devise an Islamic religious education plan. A
round-table discussion with Muslim associates is planned for
the end of August to draft a concrete curriculum and prepare
classes, but there is no set date for the program to be
implemented. As for teachers, Frankfurt University offers
training courses for the teaching of Islam and an Offenbach
Adult Education Center has been offering integration classes
for Imams since March 2009.

STATES PURSUING SMALL PROJECTS
------------------------------


BERLIN 00000993 003 OF 003


10. (U) In Bremen, a pilot project established in 2003/2004
was established to provide Islamic religious instruction in
one school. A two-course system for Sunni, Shi'a and for
Alevis was established in Baden-Wuerttemberg in 2006/07, yet
as of April 2009 only ten of the 4,700 public schools in the
state offer such courses. In Schleswig-Holstein, nine
elementary schools have implemented Islamic education courses
taught by German speaking Muslims in the last two years.
Instructors are required to receive a two-year training
course. This qualifies them to teach their two hour per week
classes dealing with the Muslim community, Islamic ethics,
stories of the Prophet, the life of Muhammad, the Qur'an and
the fundamentals of Islam. Finally, Berlin has no state
mandated Islamic education programs, but in February 2009 the
first German speaking private school for Imam training opened
in Berlin-Karlshorst. The school offers a six-year training
program where Muslims are educated to serve as prayer leaders
for Muslim communities. It is financed by private donations.

BRINGING UP THE REAR IN EASTERN GERMANY
---------------------------------------

11. (U) With the exception of the state of Berlin, no other
state in eastern Germany (Brandenburg, Mecklenburg
Western-Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and Saxony)
offers Islamic religious instruction. The low number of
Muslim residents and a lack of interest in the subject are
the reasons provided by state officials for not offering
Islamic religious instruction. There are no plans to begin
offering Islamic religious instruction in these states in the
future.

COMMENT
-------

12. (SBU) Schaeuble,s commitment to the German Islam
Conference has remained steadfast throughout his tenure as
Minister of Interior. There is no reason to believe --
whatever the outcome of the elections may be -- that a new
German government will abandon this effort, although a strong
domestic political actor with an interest in this area will
be required to realize the conference's main objectives.
After the 4th plenary of the German Islam Conference,
Schaeuble stated: "The manifold results of the study on
"Muslim Life in Germany", the various initiatives undertaken
by the Laender (federal states) with regard to Islamic
religious instruction at school and the encouraging signals
sent by the representatives of German Muslims show that the
German Islam Conference must be continued." Many federal
states have answered this call, primarily driven by Muslim
demographics. Others maintain that there are no significant
Muslim populations in their respective states. The topic of
Islamic religious education in German schools and
universities will continue to remain controversial but there
are signs in several of Germany's larger states that the
issue is being tackled head on. End comment.
Bradtke

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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