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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Introduction of Islamic teaching in state schools in Berlin, Germany

"Islamic Instruction"

Cathcon translation of
Berlin already has plans to introduce Islamic education

Should the Pro Reli referendum have a successful result, not only Christian religious teaching in schools but also Islamic teaching will also be required. The Berlin region wants this teaching to be a state requirement - and that the change should also make religious teaching a requirement for Christians.

If the referendum Pro Reli is successful, in the circumstances, the Berlin Region is seeking the introduction of the school subject "Islamic Understanding”. This would happen if the various Muslim organizations and communities could agree with the Senate over a denominational-based Islamic religious instruction, said the Berlin State School Board member, Hans-Juergen Pokall. "Islamic Understanding" is a clear state matter and does not fall under the special protection of the Basic Law, Article 7, paragraph 3.

The initiators of the referendum have until next Wednesday to collect 170,000 valid signatures for a referendum on the equality of the previously voluntary religion classes with the compulsory subject of ethics which was introduced in 2006. Should the referendum be successfully concluded, students at Berlin schools could choose in the future between the subjects of ethics and religion. In doing so, "only one form of Islamic religious education can be given," clearly observed Pokall.

Muslim associations are divided on lessons
So far, among the Alevi, only the controversial Islamic Federation offers studies for Muslim students. The right to this had been fought for in the court by the organisation which is suspicion of extremism- this process was set off in Berlin by the discussion about the ethics subject. There is currently no state Islamic religious education as a full subject. The reason for this is the lack of unity among Muslim associations on a common negotiating partner for the school authorities. Islamic understanding is currently offered as a subject only in Nord Rhein-Westfalen in 140 schools on a voluntary basis.

Pokall further announced that on a successful result of a popular referendum, the current Muslim teachers could be further employed for a transitional period. "We want the current providers of Islamic teaching to be dealt with in exactly the same way as the Christian churches." Therefore, even with them, as well as with other Muslim organisations, where appropriate, a common Islamic religious instruction is being negotiated. If these talks fail, the school administration would themselves “run in a serious manner” the introduction of Islamic understanding, underlined the board member. For the introduction, the administration would need at least a year and a half lead time.

No place for fundamentalist positions
Also on the side of the Christian churches, unexpected consequences in their ranks as a result of a Pro-Reli success are not ruled out. Pokall, the school board member pointed out that on the appropriate outcome of the referendum, Protestant and Catholic religious instruction in Berlin, which for historical reasons has so far been only on a voluntary basis and the responsibility of Churches, would be placed under the state. "It is not Christian doctrine and no preparation for community life," he said.

Religious education would "here and there have to be treated in a calmer manner" as if it is an ordinary subject, said Pokall further. At the same time, the highest education official in Berlin underlined, with the Catholic Church in mind: "For fundamentalist indoctrination and some positions on sexual teaching, there is no place."

The Berlin Archbishopric said that the school board had already been invited, at any time to make a study of the quality of the Catholic religion classes. The proposed curricula which have already been introduced in the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania region gave no cause for concern. The danger that individual teachers take up fundamentalist positions in the classroom, was also a danger for all other subjects. Spokesman for the Archdiocese, Stefan Foerner also stressed that the Catholic Church had no problems when the teaching of religion, as in other regions, was placed under state school cpmtrp. They also understand that this teaching is not specifically Christian teaching and preparation for community life.

Pokall also announced that an obligatory choice of courses could be set up at the earliest, possibly later, for the school year 2010/11 on a successful conclusion of a referendum. "It is assumed that all the sides are interested in a smooth transition and in creating interim solutions."
Among Pro Reli’s endorsers
Pope Benedict XVI
Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky
Parliament Vice President Wolfgang Thierse,
Protestant leader Wolfgang Huber
Television personality Günther Jauch
and footballer Arne Friedrich.
The group is also backed by the conservative Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and various Jewish organisations.
The main opposition to Pro Reli is Pro Ethik
backed by Berlin’s governing Social Democrats and The Left party, the Greens and the German Humanist Association. The left-wing city government decided in 2006 to make ethics classes mandatory and it is the Humanist Association that is largely responsible for structuring them.
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