Berlin's Muslim leaders to learn about German life

Thu Oct 23, 2008 8:06am EDT
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By Josie Cox

BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin senators and members of the Muslim community launched a scheme this week to teach imams more about German society and boost dialogue between religious and non-religious groups.

About 25 imams from all over the capital have registered to join the pilot program including German history and politics lessons, with the aim of becoming better informed about the ways of life in the country they live in.

"In today's world, imams are no longer just asked for advice on religious issues," Berlin Integration Commissioner Guenter Piening told Reuters.

"They are also quizzed about mundane, everyday life," said Piening, adding part of the course involved visiting the Bundestag lower house of parliament and then discussing Germany's democratic political system.

Germany is home to about 3.2 million Muslims, most of whom have Turkish roots. Although relations are largely peaceful, the lack of integration is a worry for politicians.

Many Turks live in small communities and cannot speak German fluently, limiting their job prospects.

"I was motivated to join the program because imams have a huge responsibility these days," said Suat Oezkan, 38, one of the imams attending the course, which has two lessons per week.

"The program offers a lot of support and is a wonderful way of creating more transparency between people from all religions," he told Reuters.   Continued...