Germany announced on Thursday it would fund Islamic studies at three state universities to train prayer leaders and religion teachers more in tune with Western society than the foreign imams preaching at most mosques here.
Two universities, Tuebingen and Muenster, are famous for their faculties of Christian theology and count German-born Pope Benedict among their former professors. The third, Osnabrueck, opened a course for imams this week with 30 students.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, several European countries have been seeking ways to educate imams at their universities rather than importing them from Islamic countries out of step with modern and multicultural societies.
Germany, whose state schools have separate religion classes for their Catholic, Protestant and Jewish pupils, also needs qualified Islam teachers for Muslims. Some states already offer Islam classes in their schools and more plan to do so.
“We want as many imams as possible to be educated in Germany,” said Education Minister Annette Schavan. “Imams are bridge builders between their congregations and the communities in which their mosques stand.”