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ISLAM

Islamic studies gain foothold in state schools

German Education officials are making moves to establish Islamic studies as a regular subject in North Rhine-Westphalia's public schools, in line with other religious courses about Catholic or Protestant Christianity.

Islamic studies gain foothold in state schools
Photo: DPA

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.

The Local/DAPD/mdm

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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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