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ISLAM

Schoolbooks distort Islam, study shows

European school books present a distorted image of Islam and Muslims, using stereotypes that breed mistrust of the faith and its people, according to Germany’s Georg Eckert Institute for textbook research.

Schoolbooks distort Islam, study shows
Photo: DPA

The organisation analysed 27 volumes used in classrooms in Britain, France, Austria, Spain and Germany, finding the slanted view reflects “cultural racism.”

The report, which was presented at the foreign ministry in Berlin, was billed as the first of its kind in Europe.

“Islam is always presented as an outdated system of rules which has not changed since its golden age,” Susan Krohnert-Othman, the institute’s project director, told reporters.

The researchers concluded that Islam was frequently presented as a homogeneous entity without reflecting its diversity in different parts of the world. The report did not find major differences between the five countries studied.

The textbooks used at the secondary school level frequently set an “antiquated Islam” against a “modern Europe” and depict them as in conflict with each other.

Krohnert-Othman said that such representations “cannot challenge populist Islamophobia” among pupils.

“Even modern European school books include oversimplified presentations of Islam and they stand in the way of a credible inter-cultural dialogue with the Muslim world,” said Germany’s minister of state for European affairs at the foreign ministry, Cornelia Pieper, after reading the study’s findings.

The researchers called on schools to present information on reforms advocated by Muslim clerics and intellectuals as well as the modernisation process within the religion.

And they said instruction on cultural diversity needed a major overhaul.

“Muslims must no longer be classified as a separate group consisting of non European immigrants whose traditions prevent integration,” the researchers concluded.

AFP/mdm

ISLAM

Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday

The mayor of Cologne has announced a two-year pilot project that will allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer on the Muslim day of rest each week.

Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday
The DITIP mosque in Cologne. Photo: dpa | Henning Kaiser

Mosques in the city of the banks of the Rhine will be allowed to call worshippers to prayer on Fridays for five minutes between midday and 3pm.

“Many residents of Cologne are Muslims. In my view it is a mark of respect to allow the muezzin’s call,” city mayor Henriette Reker wrote on Twitter.

In Muslim-majority countries, a muezzin calls worshippers to prayer five times a day to remind people that one of the daily prayers is about to take place.

Traditionally the muezzins would call out from the minaret of the mosque but these days the call is generally broadcast over loudspeakers.

Cologne’s pilot project would permit such broadcasts to coincide with the main weekly prayer, which takes place on a Friday afternoon.

Reker pointed out that Christian calls to prayer were already a central feature of a city famous for its medieval cathedral.

“Whoever arrives at Cologne central station is welcomed by the cathedral and the sound of its church bells,” she said.

Reker said that the call of a muezzin filling the skies alongside church bells “shows that diversity is both appreciated and enacted in Cologne”.

Mosques that are interested in taking part will have to conform to guidelines on sound volume that are set depending on where the building is situated. Local residents will also be informed beforehand.

The pilot project has come in for criticism from some quarters.

Bild journalist Daniel Kremer said that several of the mosques in Cologne were financed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “a man who opposes the liberal values of our democracy”, he said.

Kremer added that “it’s wrong to equate church bells with the call to prayer. The bells are a signal without words that also helps tell the time. But the muezzin calls out ‘Allah is great!’ and ‘I testify that there is no God but Allah.’ That is a big difference.”

Cologne is not the first city in North Rhine-Westphalia to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer.

In a region with a large Turkish immigrant community, mosques in Gelsenkirchen and Düren have been broadcasting the religious call since as long ago as the 1990s.

SEE ALSO: Imams ‘made in Germany’: country’s first Islamic training college opens its doors

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