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The Training of Imams and Teachers for Islamic Education in Europe


Edited By Ednan Aslan and Zsofia Windisch

Following 9/11 and the growth of religiously legitimated violence in Islamic countries, the focus of public discussion moved to imams and teachers of religion as actors supporting Muslim isolation and the lack of willingness to integrate – imams became central figures in the debate on Islam. With great enthusiasm, politicians discovered them to be the scapegoats of a failed integration of Muslims in Europe. Integrated imams trained in Europe were to promote Muslim integration, prevent violence, resolve contradictions between society and Muslims and further Islamic enlightenment. With this objective an attempt was made, on the one hand, to rediscover the existing institutions for imam training in Balkan states and, on the other hand, to establish new educational institutions at European universities to train Europe-compliant imams. Due to their central role in the lives of Muslims, the training of imams and teachers of religion is given an important role in the process of Muslim integration.


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13 tion”, but is understood as adoption of an ill-defined European iden- tity and renouncement of Muslim identity. This position is anchored throughout Europe by various right-wing extremist parties which seek to engage in a political struggle with Islam. The opposing voice in the debate treats the social challenge created by Muslim migration as an artificial problem. This view emphasises the “vulnerability” of Muslims before all else and thereby precludes any possibility of engaging in a critical reflection on their situation in the context of a public debate. This position affirms the victimhood of Muslims. As a consequence of this prescribed position, Muslims are deprived of the agency to critically scrutinise their own role and estab- lish directions for their future. What is common to both discourses – be it the antagonistic or the sympathetic one – is the fact that they are conducted without partici- pation of either Muslims with European roots or those who have re- cently arrived, thus exacerbating their social isolation. The pressure from the vehemence of the debate is calling Muslims to action, but that very vehemence has left them in a state of fear, un- certainty, and mistrust, isolated from the mainstream of political and policy discourse. As Muslims in Europe acquire a public voice, Imams and religious education teachers play a key role in the integration of Muslims in Eu- rope, for, besides their role as prayer leaders and pastoral mentors of the community, they convey knowledge about cultural and religious subjects to children and...

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