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Stephan Leimgruber {*}

Islamic Religious Education and Pedagogy of Islamic Religion


From: Stimmen der Zeit, 11/2011, P. 776-778
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


For a good 15 years, the German Bishops' Conference, the Protestant Church in Germany as well as all major political parties endorse the necessity of a nationwide introduction of Islamic religious instruction in schools. In rare agreement, this "Islamic Religious Education (IRV)" should be structured analogously to the RE of the religious communities according to the constitutional regulations (GG S 7.3).

This Islamic religious instruction is substantiated by three arguments: First, all students have a right to religious education, for especially Muslim children and young people in Europe should not grow up in a religious no man's land. Secondly, the school religious education certainly contributes to the integration and partnership between majority society and students with immigrant backgrounds, especially by intercultural and interreligious learning. Thirdly, this new subject should build a dam against fundamentalist tendencies of extreme Islamist groups.

Also at the Islamic Conference of the Interior Ministry, this desire for Islamic religious instruction is at the top of the agenda, and may virtually avoid downgrading this conference to a mere "security conference". And finally, the German Council of Science and Humanities has indirectly supported this project in its announcement of 29 January 2010, for it recommends to establish further chairs of Islamic Studies in order to develop confessional theologies and religious studies. (This is done now at the Universities of Osnabrück, Tübingen, Münster and Nürnberg-Erlangen. However, one wonders on whose expense are these new professorships?)

There are admittedly several pilot projects for Islamic religious instruction - with large differences between the individual federal states. What is lacking, however, is a standard form of "Islamic religious instruction" or an "Islamic religious doctrine" or even "Islamic studies" for the whole of Germany. Of course, there are now several religious textbooks (e.g., Saphir 5 / 6 and new: Saphir 7 / 8 - student books with teacher's commentaries, and "Mein Religionsbuch" 1 / 2 and 3), and various curricula for Islamic religious instruction, even a curriculum for Alevi religious education. But form and content of didactics of religious education used in those textbooks are vague and often only "mechanically copied" from Christian religious instruction.

Currently, there is growing dissatisfaction and criticism among the Islamic associations, because this implementation as a whole makes too slow progress, and teachings materials, curricula and teachers do not meet their expectations. Moreover, the Islamic associations are ignored and not welcomed in hearings.

What is the reason for this dissatisfaction? And what does this slow pace of the introduction of Islamic religious education mean? Are here, if need be, ways out of the impasse?



There have to be discussed primarily two contrasting models of Islamic religious education, which were introduced on a pilot basis and which in the following are described: the "Berlin model" and the "model of North Rhine-Westphalia (and Bavaria)". Both show only first traces of a scientific foundation of religious education. With regard to the participation and shared responsibility of the Islamic religious community, they have found different answers to the problem of lack of Islamic contact persons.

1. The Berlin model. In 2000, the "Islamic Federation of Berlin" gained the right to teach Islamic religious instruction in public schools. By way of derogation to the provisions of the Basic Law, this Islamic religious education is the sole responsibility of the Islamic religious community. The judgment of the court on this matter of 23 February 2000 has triggered surprise, because it includes the Islamic Federation, which is critically eyed by the defence of the constitution, in the responsibility. The government has only checked whether the curriculum worked out by the Islamic Federation is compatible with the Constitution, but it has not examined the planned contents and teaching methodology.

Following the line of the Institute of Inter-religious Pedagogy and Didactics (IPD) in Cologne, these lessons intend the application of the principle of correlation only to a certain extent. The "Koranic didactics" associate certain surahs with the world of children and young people ("correlate").

Principles of this Islamic instruction are: tolerance towards people of other religions, personal decision-making skills, and renouncing proselytization. This raises the question whether this conception satisfies the Basic Law and whether a greater cooperation between state and religion would not be desirable.

2. The model of North Rhine-Westphalia (and Bavaria). The federal states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia replaced the formerly so-called "lessons in the mother tongue", which were mostly taught in Turkish, by a so-called "Islamic instruction." In March 2005, in NRW the subject was labelled "study of Islam". But this is only partly true and not wanted by Muslims. In both federal states, the government alone is responsible for these lessons, to the exclusion of Islamic authorities. The curricula were drawn up under the supervision of the education authority - with the collaboration of teachers, scholars in the field of religious education, and Islamic scholars. While only an advisory status was conceded to Islamic parents. With regard to didactics, one tried to connect the living reality of the students with the faith tradition. That's why the level of "religious studies" was clearly exceeded in the direction of a dedicated teaching that bears witness.

A variant of this second model was presented by Lower Saxony. In 2003/04 Islamic religious instruction was introduced here in German language as an ungraded school subject for which the government is responsible. This model met with a broad positive response among pupils and population. For it helped to defuse the problem of Islamic interlocutors by the creation of a "Round Table Islamic religious instruction", which is at least consulted on key issues. It was thus possible to achieve a proximity to the by the Basic Law regulated religious instruction which got nationwide attention, but by far not an independent, weighty voice of Islamic organizations, as e.g. the Islamic Council.



At the level of the curricula one hardly got beyond the level of distributing the teaching material. The main contents are the six articles of Islamic faith (including the belief in angels!), and the five pillars of Islam. At the various school levels, these basic contents are sometimes explicated in an inter-religious perspective by comparing them with Judeo-Christian beliefs.

This indication of problems regarding the current status of the introduction of Islamic religious education requires on the one hand the dignified voice of Muslims while developing this school subject. This participation would be necessary particularly in the model of North Rhine Westphalia and Bavaria. In countries shaped by Islam, Christians also want long since a religious instruction for Christian children, where they are allowed to give help with designing and defining. (This is possible only in a multi-religious project in Cairo!)

On the other hand, a purposeful implementation of the new school subject requires a scientific foundation regarding didactics and pedagogy of religious instruction. This requires to designate elementary learning objectives and competencies, which have to be achieved in these lessons. What must also be clarified is the dealing with the Qur'an and Sunnah during the lessons. A mere imparting of Christian goals, as e.g. maturity (in the Kantian sense) is not sufficient, because its importance must be substantiated from Islamic sources.

Undisputed for Islamic instruction are German as teaching language and university-trained teachers. From federal state to federal state, one will presumably continue to design different models, patiently coordinate them with each other, and institutionally enshrine them. The basis for this decision should certainly be communicated in a readily comprehensible manner and democratically agreed upon. The introduction of Islamic religious education would be actually a progress regarding the equality of the school subjects and of all pupils. However, the many models in various federal states, the lack of contact persons, and the pluralization of Islam complicate a smooth introduction. Islamic religious instruction would then be a consolidation of religion as an obligatory subject, but the pluralism both of Islam and of the federal states impedes this.


Literatur: Religionen in der Schule u. die Bedeutung des Islamischen Religionsunterrichts, edited by U. Bulent and M. Blasberg-Kuhnke (Göttingen 2010); M. Hanifzadeh, Islamischer Religionsunterricht. Möglichkeit u. Grenzen (Marburg 2010); F. Kraft, Religionsunterricht für muslimische Kinder u. Jugendliche. Eine Zwischenbilanz, in: Pastoraltheologie 99 (2010) 236-251; Islamischer Religionsunterricht in Baden-Württemberg. Zur Differenzierung des Lernfelds Religion, edited by L. Kuld and B. Schmid (Münster 2009); S. Erkan, E. Lubig-Fohsal, G. Sogun-Kaps, B. Ucar, Mein Islambuch. Grundschule 1/2 (München 2009); E. Lubig-Fohsal, G. Sogun-Kaps and S. Baysal, Mein Islambuch. Grundschule 3, edited by B. Ucar (München 2011); I.—Chr. Mohr, Islamischer Religionsunterricht in Europa. Lehrtexte als Instrumente muslimischer Selbstverortung im Vergleich (Bielefeld 2006); Islamunterricht-Islamischer Religionsunterricht-Islamkunde. Viele Titel — ein Fach, edited by I.—Chr. Mohr and M. Kiefer (Bielefeld 2009); Islamische Theologie u. Religionspädagogik. Islamische Bildung als Erziehung zur Entfaltung des Selbst, edited by M. Polat and T. Cemal (Frankfurt 2010); Saphir 5/6. Religionsbuch für junge Musliminnen und Muslime (Schülerbuch u. Lehrerkommentar), edited by L. Kaddor, R. Müller and H. H. Behr (München 2008); Saphir 7/8. Religionsbuch für junge Musliminnen u. Muslime (Schülerbuch u. Lehrerkommentar), edited by the same (München 2011).


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