Unlike in secular France, which sees religion as a threat to the
influence of the state over its people, the German government sees
religious institutions as contributing to the public good.
It views the communities of faith it
officially recognizes — Christianity and Judaism — as public
organizations, granting them certain privileges and financial
It collects a “church
tax” on Germans who declare church membership when filing their
taxes and distributes the funds to the various churches
accordingly. It also finances the education of theologians and
priests and allows religion to be taught in public schools.
Even if Islam does not have yet that status, mostly because it
does not have one main representative for the government to liaise
with, myriad schools teach classes on Islam. The country needs at
least 2,000 teachers trained in Islamic theology to teach the
country’s 700,000 Muslim school children, according to official
Two years ago, the German Council of Science and Humanities, an
independent body that advises Germany’s state and federal
governments, recommended that Islamic theology centers be
established at public universities, similar to the ones that exist
for Protestantism and Catholicism.
In a country where religious
communities are seen as partners to the government, the new centers are evidence that Islam is increasingly accepted as part
of Germany’s social fabric.
“Look, we are now a part and parcel of a world famous university,”
says Mr. Hamdan. “Islam no longer stands on the outside. We stand
on equal footing with the other theology schools. We’re just as
central as the other religions.”
Speaking on the 20th anniversary of German reunification two years
ago, former president Christian Wulff told crowds. “Islam also
belongs to Germany.” At the time, his comments created uproar.
Until recently, Germany resisted seeing itself as a country of
immigration, says Christine Langenfeld, a law professor at
Göttingen University who specializes on church-state relations.
She calls the creation of publicly funded Islamic theology centers
“The hope is that at some point soon it won’t be necessary to
import imams anymore … That Islamic theology centers will bring
about a modern understanding of Islam that makes it possible for
Muslims to live in Europe side by side with many other religions,”
says Ms. Langenfeld, who is a member of the Expert Council of
German Foundations on Integration and Migration, an independent
foundation that advises policy makers on immigration and
“[The theology centers are] a path towards integration, equality