After a long period of preparation, Germany’s first Islamic studies college has opened in Osnabrück.
The college is a part of an initiative that received special attention from the German Ministry responsible for national security and religious affairs. The government suggests that the initiative is an attempt to reduce the influence of foreign-trained imams, especially from Turkey.
Last year, German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer at an Islam Conference had called for plans to build a state-backed training center for imams and Islamic studies for Muslims in Germany.
45-year-old Ender Cetin who was born to Turkish immigrants, raised in Berlin and now a lay imam, in a statement to DW said that he was impressed with “the idea that something can take place in Germany to train imams ‘Made in Germany,’ which offers a future.”
About the German College of Islam
The college has been funded by the Interior Ministry which set increasing the number of German-speaking and -preaching imams as an important goal.
Around 40 aspiring religious leaders attended their first classes at the German College of Islam in the northwestern city of Osnabrueck Monday last week while the official inauguration took place on Tuesday.
Bülent Ucar, an Islamic studies professor from the associated Osnabrück University, who helped set up the college, informed DW that the participants whose families have Turkish, Arab and Bosnian roots, represent the diversity of Islam.
He also revealed that twenty percent of the students are women.
In an attempt to bridge the communication gap, Ucar said that some Muslim communities “no longer understand” their imams if they don’t speak German. The gap could lead to especially younger members drifting toward extremist content online, he added.
However, Aiman Mazyek, the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims said that the next big challenge for them will be to win the acceptance of Muslim communities for these newly German-trained imams.
Turkish group opposes the move
The latest initiative of the German Interior Ministry has been opposed by the leading Turkish groups in the country who argue that it conflicts with the principle that religious communities alone are entitled to train their leaders.
Leading Turkish-Muslim groups in the country, namely the controversial Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and National Vision (Milli Görüş), chose not to participate in the creation of the German College of Islam.
The DITIB had launched its own training program in Germany last year. The DITIB, however, was criticized by some German authorities for its high dependency on Ankara.
Meanwhile, Milli Görüş believes that the training of imams should be “free from external influences, especially political ones.”
What is DITIB
DITIB is a controversial Turkish Muslim group founded in Germany. It manages over 900 mosques in Germany and has over 8 lakh members. As per the official research service for the German Bundestag, which has created a register of Islamic organizations in Germany, its charter states that DITIB is “linked to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet).”
In May 2019, a former German intelligence chief had alleged that the DITIB Imams are working for the Turkish intelligence. In January 2019, German media reported that the organisation had close contact with alleged Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany.