DIK - Deutsche Islam Konferenz - Overview of Islamic Religious Instruction

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Islamic religious education trials in schools

Efforts and approaches towards the establishment of Islamic religious education in state schools date back to the late 1970s. In the meantime various models of Islamic education have been piloted in school experiments in most of the west German federal states. Very few federal states were therefore unprepared when the plenum of the German Islam Conference (DIK) agreed in its 3rd meeting in March 2008 that Islamic religious education should be introduced in state schools as a regular subject to be taught in the German language, and appointed the culture ministers conference to implement this. (Cf. Islamischer Religionsunterricht - Ein Thema der DIK [Islamic religious education - a DIK theme].

Denominational and non-denominational religious studies trials in schools

At present, a distinction is to be made between denominational and non-denominational Islamic religious studies trials in schools. Non-denominational religious education teaches pupils neutral facts about religion, whereas denominational instruction is directed "towards religion" by teachers who belong to it. For a long time, neither approach has been consistent with (Islamic) religious instruction in the spirit of Article 7 para. 3 of the German Constitution, which lays the foundation for religious instruction in schools. This states: "Religious instruction shall form part of the regular curriculum in state schools, with the exception of non-denominational schools. Without prejudice to the state's right of supervision, religious instruction shall be given in accordance with the tenets of the religious community concerned." The main reason for this is that none of the federal states as yet recognises a Muslim union as a religious community in this sense, so for a long time - technically speaking - the introduction of Islamic Religious Education (IRU) as a regular school subject has failed. Numerous school trials are nevertheless seeking ways, by means of round tables or steering groups, to incorporate Muslim associations, each of which is intended to represent an Islamic religious community in accordance with Art. 7 para. 3 GG [German Constitution].

NRW - Islamic Studies in German

The "Islamic Studies in German" school experiment is one of the oldest and most comprehensive. It began in 1999 as Islamic instruction in the German language and is now taught in around 130 schools up to year 10. However, Islamic Studies is not organised in agreement with the religious community, but is the sole responsibility of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). It is therefore designed to be non-denominational and is not "regular religious instruction" in the sense of Art. 7 para. 3 GG. The present state government has set itself the goal of introducing IRU by 2010 but, in case of doubt, in agreement with only one association, unless a single representative Muslim body should have been created by then.

Lower Saxony - Islamic religious education with round table

The "Islamic religious instruction in German" school experiment in Lower Saxony is religious education along denominational lines. In the academic year 2007/08 it was extended to 26 primary schools, having begun at eight primary schools in the academic year 2003/04. The required compliance with the tenets of the Islamic religious community is sought at the so-called "Round Table for Islamic Religious Instruction" within the Lower Saxon Ministry of Cultural Affairs. At this round table representatives from the Lower Saxony Shura and other Muslim unions worked with the policy commission of the Ministry for Cultural Affairs to draw up the framework policy for education in primary schools between 2 September 2002 and 25 June 2003. This structure also appears to be acceptable as a transitional solution for the duration of the school experiment at most. As the round table is only standing in for the Islamic religious community, it does not constitute an autonomous religious community as a decision-making body for the purposes of the Federal Constitution.

Bavaria - local partnerships in line with the Erlangen model

In Erlangen confessional Islamic instruction has been given at one primary school since the academic year 2003/04. This takes place in agreement with the Islamic Religious Community Erlangen (IRE), which was created specially for the school trials. The syllabus was designed jointly by the IRE, the responsible state ministry and academics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. As there has so far been positive acceptance of the school experiment under the academic supervision of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Islamic Religious Studies (IZIR) at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, there are plans to transfer similarly well-designed versions of the local concept to other towns. Since the syllabus for Hauptschule and Realschule has been available, teaching has been extended to a Realschule in Nuremberg. In the meantime, trials are also taking place at schools in Fürth, Bayreuth and in two schools in Munich. There are long-term plans to teach IRU throughout the state. This has failed for a long time for want of a partner at state level.

Rheinland-Pfalz - expansion planned

In Rheinland-Pfalz, Islamic religious education in German was trialled in an exemplary manner during the academic year 2003/04 at a Ludwigshafen primary school. This instruction is based on a syllabus authorised by the ministry in agreement with local partners. In the academic year 2008/09, denominational religious education was introduced in a second primary school in Mainz. As of the coming academic year, IRU is to be extended to secondary grade I in Ludwigshafen and in other towns. This makes Rheinland-Pfalz the third state to introduce IRU in secondary schools, after NRW and Bavaria.

Baden-Württemberg - competition from Muslim partners

At the start of the 2006/07 academic year, Baden-Württemberg also started trials in denominational Islamic religious education in twelve primary schools. This scheme is due to run until 2010, and has so far met with positive feedback and an increasing number of pupils taking part. Teaching is based on a syllabus for classes one to four. It was produced by a steering group with the inclusion of rep-resentatives from the four Sunni organisations that applied, and an educational scientist and a religious studies teacher from the University of Karlsruhe under the direction of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. This steering group is owed to the absence of a representative Muslim religious community. Local and regional parents groups and mosque congregations are to act as partners for the state for the time being. Three of the Muslim applicants merged early in 2004 with the Bosnian and Albanian state associations to form the Islamic Community BW as a point of contact. This brings them into competition with the earlier involved Religious Community of Islam in Baden-Württemberg (RG Islam BW). Should the school experiment produce positive results, it will be extended with the aim of becoming part of regular religious education.

Schleswig-Holstein - Islamic education in agreement with various Muslim organisations

Schleswig-Holstein also started testing "Islamic education" in eight primary schools during the academic year 2007/08, doing so along the lines of the Lower Saxon model. Nine primary schools are now taking part, with further expansion planned. The responsible Ministry for Education and Women reached agreement on essential aspects of the teaching following talks with various Islamic organisations. Unlike in Lower Saxony, however, Islamic instruction is non-denominational.

Hessen - Islam in teaching on ethics

Until recently, Hessen had declined to introduce IRU and has been trying out the subject "Ethics of Islam in the teaching of ethics" since the academic year 2002/03. Recently, however, the new Minister of Cultural Affairs, Dorothea Henzler, has announced the trial introduction of denominational IRU in accordance with the Lower Saxon model. The partner in this would be a round table of several Muslim organisations.

Special cases in Berlin and Bremen

Due to the so-called Bremen Clause (Art. 141 GG), the constitutional ruling on the agreement with the relevant religious community in Bremen has no validity. No confessional religious instruction in the sense of Art. 7 para. 3 GG is therefore given.
Bremen has opted to introduce teaching in Islamic Studies under the sole responsibility of the city-state. The question of IRU in Bremen had come up during summer 1999, and a round table was set up by 2000. It soon produced results: by the end of 2001 a teaching plan was available for non-denominational Islamic Studies, which was introduced in year 5 during the academic year 2003/04. The introduction of IRU is now under discussion, especially in view of the demands of the DIK.
The Bremen Clause also applies in Berlin but, unlike Bremen, the Islamic Federation of Berlin (IFB) has sole responsibility for the provision of denominational Islamic religious instruction. Teaching is not overseen by the state or the city-state for the purposes of Art. 7 para. 1 GG as is the case in other federal states. The cultural affairs authorities only monitor the framework syllabuses, provide premises and subsidise teachers' salaries. At present around 2,000 pupils take part in IRU lessons run by the IFB in some 30 Berlin primary schools.


The multitude and diversity of school trials in the states offer good approaches to the introduction of Islamic religious instruction as a regular school subject, as demanded by the German Islam Conference. However, apart from the development of Islamic religious education and the related university training for teachers of religious studies, there also continues to be a demand for Muslim partners in the respective federal states. The ball now lies in the court of Muslim associations to quickly organise themselves into religious communities at state level.

Mark Chalîl Bodenstein, 16.02.2009

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