German State NRW Aims to Control Religion Classes: NGO

German state North Rhine Westphalia’s 3 Muslim communities which represent 90 percent of Muslims could become minority in the planned state commission which will decide the fate of Islam classes in public schools.

Religious education of Muslim kids in German public schools has been one of the most controversial issues in German states. Since education falls under state responsibility not federal, every German state has its unique implementation on how Islam classes should be carried out in Elementary and middle schools. North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) which has the biggest Muslim population out of Germany’s 16 states has been dragging its feet for years to solve the religious classes problem at public schools.

The western German state has recently enacted a law that requires to form a commission that will decide which books are to be thought in Islam classes and the content of the curriculum. The commission will also have the final say on approving the teachers. However, NRW’s biggest Muslim communities refuse to take take part in the commission saying that the state aims to take total control of the commission and the classes for that matter.

Bekir Altas, Secretary General of IGMG

“The state (NRW) wants to include in the commission marginal groups and names whom have no base in the Muslim community,” says Bekir Altas the Secretary General of IGMG which oversees around one thousand mosques through out Germany. According to Altas, if the commission is formed as the NRW state has planned, 3 biggest Muslim community which represents nearly 90 percent of the Muslims in the state will have no final say in curriculum content and who will teach the classes.

According to German state’s recently enacted law, the planned commission could have as many members as needed and each member would have an equal vote regardless of what chunk of the community they represent. “So people like Seyran Ates whom has no credibility and absolutely no representation in Muslim community could be a member of this commission and has an equal say in the matter as our organization or DITIB while we represent most of the community,” warns Altas.

If the German state’s plan is pushed ahead, three biggest Muslim organizations that represents 90 percent of state’s Muslim population could become minority in the commission and have no impact on Islam classes.

Cologne Central Mosque which houses the headquarter of DITIB, largest Muslim community if Germany

According to prominent Muslim community members, there are other problems in the enacted law which need to be amended. The new law could recognize marginal groups as Muslim community organizations. Seyran Ates and politician Cem Ozdemir has recently tried to found a Muslim community which was mocked by the Muslims in Germany. The law also seeks to cut DITIB’s ties to Turkish government. DITIB operates around 1000 mosques thorough out Germany and is the biggest Muslim community in the country. However, German government as well as NRW state requires it to cut ties with Turkey in order to take part in Muslim matters in Germany while churches with similar ties with motherland countries pose no problem.

Islam classes will be thought in more than 200 schools in North Rhine Westphalia state where there are over 350 thousand Muslim kids in elementary and middle shools.

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