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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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Jeton Mehmeti: Imams in Western Societies: Why Communication Skills Matter as much as Knowledge?

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369 Jeton Mehmeti Imams are among the few public speakers who address large audiences and whose messages are widely accepted and rarely contested. As reli- gious leaders, Imams enjoy great respect across the Muslim world; they are held as pious and wise people, knowledgeable and authoritative. Although the term Imam has a broader meaning, I choose to refer to Imams based on our local context, meaning Imams who both lead Is- lamic rituals and explain Islamic teachings (khatib). In this sense, their mission is not only to lead Islamic rituals, but also to preach, commu- nicate and explain Islam’s teachings, particularly to Muslims but also to mankind in general. Their job is such as they are in constant contact with people. Considering the Imams’ authority, the message they give is often taken very seriously, whether it is a right or wrong message. In short, they can be very influential people. I m a m s i n We s t e r n S o c i e t i e s : W h y Co m m u n i ca t i o n S k i l l s M a t t e r a s m u c h a s K n o w l e d g e ? 370 Muslims in western societies today live a busy life. They seem too preoccupied with family, work and career and are unable to find spare time to learn about Islam or to consult the Imam...

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