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Introducing Islamic religious studies in schools

Islamic religious studies lessons in German should be introduced at state schools as a standard subject. This has met with consensus within the German Islam Conference. The idea is not entirely new as

the heads of federal and regional government agreed the proposal back in 2001. But to date, lessons in Islamic religious studies only exist as pilot projects.

To ensure that this changes, the sub-group of working group 2 "Paths to Islamic religious studies in schools" has developed the constitutional framework conditions incorporating the latest case law. This is intended to contribute towards moving from the transitionary solutions of the pilot projects and arriving at a standard subject of "Islamic religious studies" as quickly as possible.

The new subject is to be taught by staff trained in Germany. In Germany, education is a matter dealt with by the Federal Länder. Therefore all the measures necessary will be taken in close co-operation with the respective ministry of culture.

Obligatory: religious communities conforming to the constitution

In Germany, the religious communities lay down the foundations for religious instruction, as the authorities of the religious and ideologically neutral state do not have the power to do so.

This presupposes, however, that a “religious community” exists in accordance with Article 7, paragraph 3 of the Basic Law. Amongst other things, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

The group of believers deals with the comprehensive fulfilment of the duties determined by their religious denomination.

The fulfilment of these religious duties is at the centre of their activities and is not merely one aspect alongside other social or cultural imperatives.

This is how "religious communities" differ in particular from "religious associations", which are only partially concerned with fulfilling religious duties.

It is however not a requirement for setting up Islamic religious studies lessons that the religious communities in question, such as the large Christian churches, are corporations under public law.

A religious community may include members of different but related beliefs. In the case of Islam, the recognition of the Koran and the sunnah as common basis of faith would be sufficient.

In addition to these formal criteria, the teachings of the religious community may neither contradict the fundamental constitutional principles prescribed in Article 79, paragraph 3 of the Basic Law nor infringe the basic rights of third parties or free religion and state church law.

A minimum: membership numbers and stability

Even if the legal term of "religious community" does not stipulate a minimum size, the number of members and their organisational format must guarantee a certain stability. This applies particularly with respect to the introduction of religious studies as a "standard subject", for which the laws of the Land governing schools stipulate a permanent minimum number of eight pupils per school year.

These requirements are based on the fact that introducing a new school subject involves much time and effort. If there is only a temporary need, this cannot be put in train.

Because religious studies as a standard subject is a mandatory subject for all members of the respective religious community – with the option to opt-out – the adherence of the pupils and their parents to a religious community must be clearly regulated.

One team: ministries of culture and religious community

In introducing standardised Islamic religious studies, the Länder – generally through the ministries of culture or subordinate agencies – act on behalf of the state in co-operating with the religious communities. .

For, even if the religious principles of the teaching are stipulated by the religious community, it is nevertheless subject to school supervision by the state, which monitors above all the qualifications of staff and the compliance with teaching and academic standards.

Religious communities and state bodies together develop courses which meet the requirements of both parties.

DIK-editorial team, 25.11.2008

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