DIK - Deutsche Islam Konferenz - Training imams

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Various routes for training imams

With its connections to Diyanet, the Turkish Directorate for Religious Affairs in Ankara, the Turkish Islamic Union (DITIB e.V) enjoys the privilege of receiving imams from Turkey whose appointment is organised by the state. They have usually completed their schooling in religious middle schools or religious high schools, known as Imam Hatip schools, but only a few have completed academic studies. Since approximately 2005, Diyanet has favoured sending imams who have completed a theology degree at a Turkish university. However, as of 2009, not even half of the German DITIB communities were provided with a university graduate. Therefore, and taking into account the problems of socialisation and language in a foreign country, Diyanet set up "International Theology" courses in both Ankara and Istanbul in 2006. Approximately 100 scholarship holders, born and bred in Germany and other European countries are now studying there. On graduating, they will be able to find positions as imams abroad. In summer 2010, the first 15 graduates are expected back from Turkey.

VIKZ: Training provided by the Association of Islamic Cultural Centres

The Association of Islamic Cultural Centres (VIKZ) launched its own imam training at the end of the 1980s at the Association's academy "Villa Hahnenburg" in Cologne. At first, training was carried out as weekend and holiday courses and it has now developed into a three-year programme with final examinations followed by a year's placement in a mosque community. The course is taught in Turkish and Arabic and the content complies with traditional modules: reciting the Koran, Arabic grammar and phonetics, Islamic law, knowledge of the hadith, sermon training for the hutba (Friday sermon) and ritual prayer. Each intake has approximately 30 to 35 participants, and women are permitted to train too, but are not allowed to work as imams. They find work in social roles in the communities. There is some dispute about the age young people should be allowed to enter the internal Association training. Very recently there have been loud calls within the Association demanding that imam training should require a completed German school education, and even a completed professional training in another area of work. The VIKZ is however still the only large federal association that trains imams itself in Germany.

IGBD: Training for the Association of Islamic Bosnians in Germany

Ideally, imams from the Association of Islamic Bosnians in Germany  (IGBD) should have graduated in theology in Sarajevo. This course follows the traditional course content. Training for the various requirements, issues and an imam's new areas of duties in a non-Islamic social environment is, as in other countries, not a component part of study in Sarajevo. The future of imam training is discussed within the association, whereby there are two key arguments which are diametrically opposed: additional qualifications for service abroad within the course in Sarajevo; while others see the future exclusively in terms of an Islamic theology course and imam training in Germany. Neither is currently available, however.

Training for independent mosque associations

Not all mosque associations in Germany belong to one of the large, predominantly Turkish-influenced Islamic associations. So to an extent, the imams from these numerous, smaller associations of differing national origin reflect all types of training received in their countries of origin: as well as imams on self-study courses and imams from madrasas, there are also graduate chemists or lawyers who work as imams as a secondary job. There are graduate theologians who came to Germany with a scholarship for another subject and are working as imams for mosque associations. Of the many countries of origin represented here in Germany by mosque associations, only Morocco has set up an extra training module specially for imams working abroad. This began three years ago. It lasts a year and, apart from the traditional subjects, it includes language and cultural modules, currently focusing on English and French.

Marfa Heimbach, 18.12.2009.

Marfa Heimbach is an Islamic Studies academic, freelance author for the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln radio station and organises the "Religions in a secular state" dialogue project for priests and imams on behalf of the Federal Agency for Civic Education.

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