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The Training of Imams and Teachers for Islamic Education in Europe

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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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Z. Şeyma Arslan: Training of Imams and Teachers for Islamic Education in Turkey

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291 Z. Şeyma Arslan Tra i n i n g o f I m a m s a n d Te a c h e r s fo r I s l a m i c E d u ca t i o n i n Tu r ke y Training Imams or religious education teachers in countries like Tur- key – countries that have a significant Muslim population and Islamic tradition – not only means training religious functionaries, but also producing Islamic knowledge. Although Imams, teachers of religion, and religious scholars (ulema) carry out a social service, they also hold authority on the basis of religious knowledge. In the case of Turkey, following the reign of the Ottomans, the form of this traditional struc- ture changed after the Republican period. While Turkey is a secular nation state, it also has a rich historical legacy and dominant Mus- lim population and produced its religious educational institutions in a neither entirely Western nor fully traditional way. The search for middle ground between the idealized Westernization of the modern Turkish Republic and the traditional Islamic heritage has engendered today’s Islamic discourse (which has been described as “moderate”), along with the structure of contemporary religious educational insti- tutions. 292 Z. Şeyma Arslan T h e B a c k g r o u n d T h e Tr a n s f o r m a t i o n o f E d u c a t i o n a l I...

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