Germany set to train own imams to prevent extremism

Germany will open its first imam training course this year to combat Islamist extremism, the Irish Independent reported on Sunday.

The course is set to begin at Osnabrück University in April, the Irish Independent said. In addition to traditional imam training, students will be taught how to conduct prayers and other Islamic practices and will attend classes on social plurality and learn about extremism so they can protect young Muslims from it.

The government-funded project is led by the Muslim community to train imams who speak German and who can therefore communicate with third-generation Muslims.

“Most third-generation Muslims no longer speak their grandparents’ mother tongue that well,” Rauf Ceylan, an Islamic scholar at the university and a founder of the project, told the Telegraph, according to the Irish Independent. “The danger is that they turn to other German-speaking authorities such as Salafists (extremist preachers).”

Ceylan said 90 percent of imams in Germany still come from abroad and do not speak the language.

The largest single employer of imams in Germany is the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB), a Turkish government agency. German officials have raised concerns about the influence this gives Turkey over Germany’s Muslim community.

“The old type of imam was geared to the needs of first-generation Muslims, immigrants who came to Germany in the Sixties,” he said. They are unable to “understand the young people’s world”, he said.

Ceylan warned that German-speaking extremist preachers understood “how to cast Islam into a popular form” to the younger Muslim generation.