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Germany launches €20m funding pot for Islamic theology research

A centre for Islamic theology research, the first-ever in Germany, opened at the University of Tübingen last week.

The centre is the first of four centres for Islamic studies to be founded by the German Ministry for Research and Education over the coming months, with a total of €20 million a year. The centres will educate teachers and preachers for mosques, religious schools and state schools, and also train and host researchers in the field.

Baden-Württemberg alone is home to more than 600,000 Muslims, and it is estimated that 5 per cent of Germany’s population is of Islamic faith. Germany is expecting 700,000 Muslim pupils at its schools within the next few years.

The ministry says at least 2,000 trained teachers are needed to provide adequate teaching of Islamic religion, and the government must make sure teachers in the field are well-trained and provide a high standard of teaching.

The German government also hopes that the centres will further the understanding of Islam and contribute to the integration of Germany’s large Muslim population, mostly from Turkey and the Middle East.

“We have a lot of theology experience at our universities and we want to make a contribution to the further development of Islamic theology,” said Annette Schavan, the German research minister. “This centre also offers a fantastic chance to improve dialogue with Christian religions.”

The centre in Tübingen, which was launched on 16 January, will receive €4m euros over the next five years to fund professors and PhD posts. A total of 36 students have already been accepted on the centre’s bachelor programme in Islamic religion, which is starting in the autumn.

The first professor at the centre is Omar Hamdan, a Koran researcher who studied comparative religious science at the University of Tübingen. Further posts will cover Islamic faith, Islamic law, history of Islam and Islam in the present day.

The University of Tübingen set up a department of Islamic studies in 2010, and has already established joint projects with the Islamic studies faculties of the universities of Ankara, Sarajevo and Cairo.