There have been several pilot projects to teach principals of the faith to German pupils, who are offered the option religious instruction in most state schools. But a vote by the NRW parliament will give it a more permanent foothold until at least 2018, when the effectiveness of the instruction will be comprehensively evaluated.
Although there is demand for the courses – there are about 300,000 Muslim students in the state’s schools – Islamic studies classes have been controversial throughout Germany.
But supporters have argued that offering approved classes at about 130 state schools by vetted teachers could encourage the flourishing of a more moderate version of Islam among German youth.
State Education Minister Sylvia Löhrmann said the parliamentary vote represented a “sign of more integration” adding that North Rhine Westphalia could be “a good example” for other states.
But there appears to be some discomfort among lawmakers about the idea. Although the Greens and the centre-right Christian Democrats and centre-left Social Democrats supported the parliamentary vote, the socialist Left party voted against it, and the pro-business Free Democrats abstained.
Officials have emphasised that the classes are held in German and are offered only by specially trained teachers.