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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Religious Education in Germany / Professor Muhammad Kalisch

I was asked about the incident with Professor Muhammed Kalisch who got in troubles for teaching that Muhammed and the prophets of Islam most probably didn't actually exist.

So you can understand I also have to explain the topic of 'religious education' in German schools which is mostly misunderstood by foreigners (And even, partly due to intention) also by Germans.

Religious education is a regular school subject in Germany.

Article 7 subsection 3 of the German Basic Law says:

Religious instruction shall form part of the regular curriculum in state
schools, with the exception of non-denominational schools. Without prejudice
to the state’s right of supervision, religious instruction shall be given in
accordance with the tenets of the religious community concerned. Teachers
may not be obliged against their will to give religious instruction.

That doesn't mean that everyone has to attend those lessons subsection 2 of the very same article says:

Parents and guardians shall have the right to decide whether children
shall receive religious instruction.

And furthermore do children have when they reach the age of 12 the right so unsubscribe or to subscribe themselves to those lesson.
I attended religious education (Roman Catholicism) until I ended the school and my final grade was an A. Since religious education is a regular subject it is also taken into account when calculating your Numerus clausus which might block you from studying certain fields if it's too bad. (Those children who don't attend religious education have to attend a subject called "Ethik" [best translated with Secular Ethics])

Since the 2 big Christian Churches in Germany and some Jewish Communities give religious education at school the muslims in Germany also demanded their right to teach Islam to muslim students in German school.

But they (and neither the Christian Churches or Jewish Communities) could send anyone into the schools to teach their religion (That would be a little bit too easy). Teachers in German schools have to have an academic education in pedagoy and their subjects of choice. Therefor it became necessary to install faculties for muslim theology in German who then educate the future teachers for muslim religious education.

Professor Muhammad Kalisch now is a professor in such a faculty whose responsiblity it is to teach prospect teachers. The problem with him is that he has a radical-critical approach to Islam. That means he doubts the historic existence of Muhammed.
The Coordinition Council of Muslims in Germany therefor distanced itself from him and announced that it couldn't advice anyone to study under Muhammed Kalisch.
That causes some problems. When it comes to religious education State and Church are heavily intertwined in Germany. The Churches need to put their teachers to some sort of academic education in Germany, but on the other hand don't need to accept anyone coming from those universities to teach their religion. Therefor they have some say in who teaches on the universities or not. The Catholic Church for example already banned liberal theologians like Eugen Drewermann from teaching in their theological faculties.
But since their isn't a united muslim body that would have the represtative legitimation as the Catholic Church certainly has for Catholicism there is an open question who has the right to repeal the teaching permission of muslim theologians.
As it stand now he won't educate prospect teachers anymore, but still is professor for "The Religion of Islam"

In the course of the controvesy many muslims even refused to call him by his name Muhammad anymore and just called him with his middle name (Sven Kalisch). Which insinuates that he in their opinion commited apostasy (And I guess you know what that would mean).


  1. Mike,
    Thanks for sharing that.
    I am actually embarassed that I don't know more about other countries. I have been listening to the BBC radio lately that does cover world events much better than any news media in the states.

    Anyhoo, I have a crony here that is fond of saying that Europe is all but lost to the Muslims; that their take over is inevitqable in the next 50 years.

    What do you think about that?

  2. ow, thanks mike.

    My first take on it was "muslims are over-reacting again".
    I knew nothing of the set up of religious education in schools in Germany.

    You guys need to get secular like us frogs.

  3. froggie, growth and influence of Islam is huge in the big cities of northern europe.

    Here in sticksville South-West France you'd hardly ever see a dark face, so it isn't an issue.

    The rise of Islam is directly linked to immigration. There is no guarantee that the children and grandchildren of immigrants will remain tied to their religion.

    So far the trend seems to be:
    Immigrants from the 60s 70s and 80s have come seeking work. They are non-militant and hard-working. Thety retain very close ties to their home countries and families.

    Their children are local nationals by birth. As they hit theor teens, lack of work and general youthful bolshiness gets them involved in anti govt activity. There is a large overlap with religios militancy.

    Which direction will their children go? Who knows. They may not have such a sizeable chip on their shoulders. They could rebel against their parents' attitudes and be lore secular.

  4. stew,
    there's no better way to convert kids to atheism than religion classes in school...

  5. Great writeup, Mike. I was unaware of the incident, let alone the State & Religion issues in Germany.

    I really wish the general issue was better defined here in the US. "The separation of church and state" is an ideal, rather than something codified by law - although most people don't seem to understand that.

    As such, religion continually assaults secular institutions here, and is successful to varying degrees.

  6. Very good, I hadn't heard of Kalisch before.
    I want to note that in Germany, the academic education of religion teachers is paid for by the state, saving the churches a huge amount of money. I think this is wrong, since the churches already receive the church tax, and the state already pays for the vast majority of building and renovation of churches and monasteries. Priests and bishops are also paid by the state (the average priest receives a salary about double of what a similarly occupied social worker gets, and bishops are paid on the level of a federal state attorney).

    Effectively it is a system to perpetuate religiosity from one generation to the next, since many religion teachers still teach a dogmatic and uncritical view of their religion. They are required to teach about all major religions and about things like animism and extinct religions. In practice, it is easy for the teacher to convey a biased viewpoint and to subtly denigrate others. This isn't a problem of the past, and it is a fact that many in the current generation still get indoctrinating lessons.

    The Bavarian and (at least up to the recent election) Catholic-dominated government expresses the view that unless a parent protests, Christian crucifixes are a standard in all classrooms. Until 1995, all classrooms were required by law to have a crucifix, then rescinded by the Constitutional Court. Anthrophosophist parents had sued, and in spite of my negative opinion of their woo-woo beliefs, they had every right to. Even this decision has not produced significant change, since they have merely changed the requirement to a state rule. The suing father in turn got labeled as pathologically mentally ill for "fighting the schools and Church". The recent lawsuit filed by an atheist teacher was rejected this August on the grounds that the teacher did not suffer emotional distress. As a state official, he had the duty to be obedient and tolerant. The bizarre idea is that unless the child suffers emotional distress, and unless the parents are brave enough to demand their rights be respected by the majority, all is well. Since fear of God and blind faith still aren't considered to be emotionally damaging, nothing will change. Atheists have the same rights, but Catholic rights are effectively more equal than theirs.

    High-ranking Christian conservative politicians in other states like Hessen are pushing for similar legislation to introduce their religion into classrooms. Ronald Pofalla, head of the CDU party of Germany: "As a party that carries Christian in name, we want the Christian confession to be preserved in the public area." Meaning schools and courts, and by 'preserve' meaning emphasize and promote.

    As in other countries, Christian conservatives are quick to rhetorically conflate Christianity with patriotism, culture and human rights, strongly implying that all these achievements and values were dependant on and causally connected with Christianity. This is a myth that has never stood up to critical scrutiny by unbiased historians. It has become a meme that the majority follows blindly and does not question. The conflation makes it easy to paint any dissenting voice as unpatriotic, anti-humane and asocial. A discussion I followed (rdnet iirc) with a Christian about the roots of human rights boiled down to his ridiculous assertion that Western values were grounded in two or three partial Bible verses. As if large parts of the Bible itself and Christianity's history were insignificant and didn't prove how easily a suppression of human rights, equality and conscientious morality have always and still are occuring. I can easily find many more than three sentences in the Communist Manifesto that convey a good message, but that does not mean that a good society would result from promoting Communism as the leading culture ('Leitkultur') anywhere.

  7. For example you could take this from Karl Marx:

    Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

  8. Thanks Stew.
    I live in NW Pennsylvania and there are very few fundamentalist christians.
    In the bible belt there are billboards every 1/4 mile about Jesus and different churches. You feel under constant assault.

    Up here you might see one every now and then.

  9. Muslim youths are angry, frustrated and extremist because they have been mis-educated and de-educated by the British schooling. Muslim children are confused because they are being educated in a wrong place at a wrong time in state schools with non-Muslim monolingual teachers. They face lots of problems of growing up in two distinctive cultural traditions and value systems, which may come into conflict over issues such as the role of women in the society, and adherence to religious and cultural traditions. The conflicting demands made by home and schools on behaviour, loyalties and obligations can be a source of psychological conflict and tension in Muslim youngsters. There are also the issues of racial prejudice and discrimination to deal with, in education and employment. They have been victim of racism and bullying in all walks of life. According to DCSF, 56% of Pakistanis and 54% of Bangladeshi children has been victims of bullies. The first wave of Muslim migrants were happy to send their children to state schools, thinking their children would get a much better education. Than little by little, the overt and covert discrimination in the system turned them off. There are fifteen areas where Muslim parents find themselves offended by state schools.

    The right to education in one’s own comfort zone is a fundamental and inalienable human right that should be available to all people irrespective of their ethnicity or religious background. Schools do not belong to state, they belong to parents. It is the parents’ choice to have faith schools for their children. Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim teacher or a child in a Muslim school. There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools. An ICM Poll of British Muslims showed that nearly half wanted their children to attend Muslim schools. There are only 143 Muslim schools. A state funded Muslim school in Birmingham has 220 pupils and more than 1000 applicants chasing just 60.

    Majority of anti-Muslim stories are not about terrorism but about Muslim culture--the hijab, Muslim schools, family life and religiosity. Muslims in the west ought to be recognised as a western community, not as an alien culture.
    Iftikhar Ahmad

  10. The right to education in one’s own comfort zone is a fundamental and inalienable human right that should be available to all people irrespective of their ethnicity or religious background.

    This is so misguided as to be nonsensical. No one has a human right to not be offended!

    No, you absolutely do not have the right to be educated in whatever zone you deem comfortable. Aside from it leading to the censorship of uncomfortable ideas, it's practially impossible for a state to provide - due to the wealth of differening opinions on what constitutes "acceptable" and "not acceptable".

    I'm sorry. I do accept the criticism of cultural conflict, and of having to deal with the ideals of a nation vs the ideals of a community. However, you have no right to shift the burden of this conflict onto a government which is resposible for the health education and well-being of all citizens, regardless of religion or culture or economic status.

    If you want your education system to reflect your beliefs, then go create one yourself. Stop asserting that you have a right to be surrounded only by ideas that you personally find acceptable.

    It's social fascism in the extreme.

  11. @iftikhara

    Either you are extremely stupid or you are just some bot who is programmed to post this article into every blog that mentions several words...

    Didn't you recognise the coats of arms of Germany next to the article?!


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