In an effort to limit the number of “imported imams”, Germany is launching the first state-supported vocational training for religious leaders, but the initiative has been contested due to the lack of participation from major Turkish organizations.
About forty future Muslim leaders of the sect, men and women, undertake a two-year course provided by the College of Islam in Osnabrück, in the north-west of the country.
The first lessons among the 12,000 volumes of the massive library acquired in Egypt were held on Monday, and the official opening was held on Tuesday.
Open to holders of a bachelor’s degree in Islamic theology or an equivalent diploma, the training provides training punctuated by internships and focuses on practice: recitation of verses from the Quran, preaching techniques, worship practices or political education.
In a country that has 5.3 to 5.6 million Muslims – between 6.4 and 6.7% of the population – and does not cease to wonder about the place of Islam, the federal state and the lands of Lower Saxony are Financially supports the program.
Called for the first time by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who spoke in front of the deputation in favor of the training of imams in 2018. “It will make us more independent and it is essential for the future”, he had justified.
The education “is distinguished by two specialties: we want to reflect the reality of the life of Muslims in Germany and the lessons are exclusively in German”, explains Esnif Begich, who chairs the College of Islam.
“We are German Muslims, we are an integral part of society and now we have the possibility to become an ‘made in Germany’ imam”, says Ander Setin, one of the students, who is already in a prison as a volunteer imam. Works. Berlin youth.
So far, most imams in Germany are backed by Muslim countries, especially Turkey, who are trained and paid for by their home state.
Thus, according to a study by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, about half of the 2,000 to 2,500 imams belong to the Turkish organization Ditib, which is directly dependent on the Turkish Ministry of Worship and which manages 986 local communities. For others, according to the same source, 80 to 90% are sent from North Africa, Albania or the former Yugoslavia.
Most of the time, these religious leaders come to Germany for four or five years, some with tourist visas, and are foreign to the local cultural and social context. “These imams do not speak the language of young people who themselves often do not understand Turkish well,” summarizes Mr. Setin, the son of Turkish immigrants born in Berlin. However, it is important that they be exposed to the realities of a multicultural society where Christians, Jews, atheists and Muslims come together. “
In addition, some religious activists, who are Turkish state officials, “pursue a political agenda” here, he said. The question of the influence exerted by Ankara actually regularly comes back to the center of debate, especially since the failed putdown against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. In 2017, a German justice was suspected of spying on four Imam members of Ditib. Opponents or critics of Turkish power.
But the training of imams financially supported by the state also raises criticism as it conflicts with the principle that only religious communities are entitled to train their staff. Thus neither the Ditib nor the second most important Islamic religious community, Milli Görse, participated in the creation of the Osnabrück Institute, which also began its training in Germany last year. According to its general secretary Bekir Altas, for Milli Görs, the training of imams or clergy “should be free from outside influences, in particular political”.
But the President of Islam College assures us that “there has been absolutely no impact on the part of the state which has not interfered with the development of the programmes”.
The thorny question of outlets remains. Because the profession of the imam is currently paid less, depending on donations from the faithful. “We are not an employment agency” responsible for finding positions for students, warns Esnif Begic.
In an effort to limit the number of “imported imams”, Germany is launching the first state-supported vocational training for religious officials, but the initiative has been contested due to the lack of participation from the main Turkish organizations. Future Muslim leaders of worship, men and women, begin the two-year course …