RELIGION

Head Of Germany's Protestant Church Wants Islam Taught In State Schools

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm called for "tolerance" and "religious freedom" in a recent interview.

The head of the Protestant Church in Germany has called for Islam to be taught in state schools across the country as a way to make young Muslims impervious to the "temptation of fundamentalists."

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm told the Heilbronner Stimme newspaper that teaching Islam in schools nationwide would give Muslim pupils a chance to take a critical approach to their own religion.

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, called for "tolerance" during a re
Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, called for "tolerance" during a recent interview with Heilbronner Stimme.

Seven of Germany's 16 federal states offer some form of Islamic religion classes in their schools, similar to the Catholic and Protestant religion classes they have traditionally had. Germany has about four million Muslims, about five percent of the total population.

Attitudes towards Islam have hardened following militant attacks in Europe and the arrival of more than a million migrants last year, most of the Muslims.

The influx has fueled the rise of anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which maintains that Islam violates the constitution and wants a ban on minarets and face veils. Almost two-thirds of Germans think Islam has no place in their country, according to a survey published this month.

Frauke Petry, head of the right-leaning populist Alternative for Germany, AfD, political party, speaks during a gathering on
Frauke Petry, head of the right-leaning populist Alternative for Germany, AfD, political party, speaks during a gathering on May 13, 2016.

In addition, hundreds of Germans have left the country to join the radical Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq since 2012, according to the interior ministry.

Bedford-Strohm said all faiths in Germany must be compatible with the country's democratic constitution. "Tolerance, religious freedom and freedom of conscience must apply to all religions," he said in the interview published on Friday.

He said Islamic associations in Germany should be responsible for these courses and hoped they would organise themselves to be a "clear partner" for the German state.

Rivalries and disputes among Islamic associations have complicated efforts to manage religious instruction for Muslims in some areas and strained relations with some universities that train teachers for existing Islam classes.

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