The Centers for Islamic Theology: Pioneers with International Impact
With a total of around 44 million Euros, since 2011, the BMBF has been funding seven centers centers for Islamic theology, including, since 2019, the Institutes for Islamic Theology at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and at the University of Paderborn. After ten years of funding, they are recognized both nationally and internationally.
More than five million Muslims currently live in Germany - for many years they have been the third largest religious group after Catholic and Protestant Christians. In order to "create the institutional requirements for adequately taking into account the plurality of Islamic faiths in the Federal Republic of Germany," the German Council of Science and Humanities had already recommended the establishment of such centers in 2010.
"Thanks to the BMBF funding, it has been possible to implement the idea that making Islam at home in Germany also includes producing Islamic knowledge for the local context," emphasizes Prof. Dr. Bekim Agai, Director of the Academy for Islam in Science and Society (AIWG) and Executive Director of ZEFIS Frankfurt/Gießen, and adds: "Being qualified to speak about Islam, about theologically or socially burning issues, interdisciplinary, intra-religious or inter-religious, has thus been enhanced in Germany. Graduates today contribute their knowledge in the context of schools, in institutions of civil society, communities, and universities and beyond."
The centers have established themselves as nationally and internationally recognized places of Islamic theological research and promote the next generation of scholars in Islamic theology - for schools and universities. The aim is to train Islamic religious education teachers for confession-oriented school teaching and to enable academically sound studies of religious scholars in the state university system in the German language. Approximately 2000 students are enrolled at the BMBF-funded centers, and the number is growing.
After ten years of BMBF funding, at all seven locations permanent organizational structures have been established. And even though BMBF funding for four centers in Frankfurt/Gießen, Münster, Osnabrück and Tübingen ended in 2021, they will continue to operate. The University of Münster, for example, has decided to establish a separate faculty out of the center. The Institute for Islamic Theology at the University of Osnabrück will also continue to be an institute within the Faculty of Education and Cultural Studies, entirely on an equal basis with the other two Christian institutes. The Center for Islamic Theology (ZITh) at the University of Tübingen and ZEFIS Frankfurt/Gießen will also be maintained. Such permanent structures at the universities can contribute to a further objectification and refinement of the debates about Islam.
Lively academic exchange
Through numerous conferences and publications, media presence and international contacts, a lively scientific dialogue is taking place. This ensures both the professional quality and the visibility of the centers and BMBF funding - well beyond Germany. "The establishment of the Centers for Islamic Theology ten years ago was a pioneering achievement," according to AIWG Director Agai, who explains, "Since Germany was the first Western European country to establish Islamic theological studies at public universities and to work with a considerable number of universities and chairs, Germany acts as a test case and a model for other countries. Through projects such as the AIWG International Program, we in Germany act as a hub and provide a space where scholars and people with practical interests in Islamic knowledge production in Europe can come together." New approaches to research and practice on important questions of Islamic religion and Muslim life can thus also be developed in comparative international terms.
THE BMBF-FUNDING PURSUES FOUR OBJECTIVES:
To establish internationally recognized centers of Islamic-theological and Islam-related interdisciplinary research at universities
To provide excellent education for the next academic generation
The training of Islamic religious education teachers for confession-oriented religious teaching in the school sector
The representation of ethnic and religious diversity of Muslim faith and life in Germany
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