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The Training of Imams and Teachers for Islamic Education in Europe

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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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Jørgen S. Nielsen: Reflections on the Role and Training of Imams and Islamic Teachers for Europe

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91 Jørgen S. Nielsen Re f l e c t i o n s o n t h e Ro l e a n d Tra i n i n g o f I m a m s a n d I s l a m i c Te a c h e r s fo r E u ro p e Islamic scholars and scholarship function in a complex and highly contested environment. In the former communist parts of Europe Is- lam was, together with all other religion, strictly controlled and ac- tively discouraged or, as in Albania, completely forbidden. After the end of communism, religion, including Islam, resurfaced in a variety of ways and negotiated new settlements with the new states in new constitutional and legal arrangements. In the case of Yugoslavia this process was delayed and called into question by the wars that accom- panied the disintegration of the state, wars in which religious identi- ty were a strong dimension. In Western Europe, Islam was identified with immigration and new ethnic minorities often originating from former empires and therefore a dimension of the decolonization and post-colonial processes. Across Europe Muslims have been caught in conflicts involving racism and xenophobia, while international polit- 92 Jørgen S. Nielsen ical developments with heightened focus on Islam from the Iranian revolution till ‘war on terror’ have imposed their additional dynamic. But at the same time there have been continuing developments of a more positive nature. In most countries the...

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