Germany begins controversial training programme for imams

Germany begins controversial training programme for imams
The state-backed training for Muslim faith leaders is meant to tackle foreign influence but critics worry the system will lead to further surveillance of Muslim communities.
2 min read
15 June, 2021
Germany has a Muslim population of 4.7 million [Getty]

Germany on Monday began its first-ever state-sponsored training programme for imams as part of efforts to tackle radicalisation and apparent foreign influence in local Muslim communities.

The government-backed Islam College and similar initiatives in France and the Netherlands have been mired by worries of state control of religion and surveillance.

The first two-year programme will train 20 students, among them women.

The student imams will be instructed in topics including delivering surmons and administering social and spiritual services, Deutsche Welle reported.

Germany has a population of around 4.7 million Muslims, most of them of Turkish descent.

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German authorities have frequently expressed concerns about Turkish state influence in local Muslim communities.

Currently, the majority of imams in Germany are affiliated with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB).

DITIB was founded by the Turkish state in 1984. Many of the imams working in the 900 mosques funding by the organisation are civil servants sent from Turkey.

The organisation has been accused of acting as a branch of the Turkish government and has even been accused of spying.

German politicians have also criticised Turkish education imams for being unable to speak German. 

Authorities have dismissed concerns about the state-funded imam training programme.

"Our aim is not to 'Germanise' Islam," Deputy Interior Minister Markus Kerber said in 2019, when the programme was announced.

"We want Muslims living here to feel truly at home and accepted and that they enrich our country," Keber was quoted as saying by Deutsche Welle

"It would be an advantage if the religious staff in the mosques has a certain experience in German daily life," he added.

The interior ministry previously announced plans that would require imams to both speak German and have been educated in a German theological programme.