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Imams learning German: a German-Turkish joint project

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Every year since May 2002, intensive language courses and a socio-cultural programme which last several months have been held at the Goethe-Institut in Ankara, in close coordination with the Diyanet and the German Embassy. The purpose of the courses is to prepare imams for their posting in Germany.

Intensive Language Courses and Cultural Programme for Turkish Imams” is the name of a German-Turkish project which sprang from an initiative of the Turkish religious authority, the Diyanet, and the German Embassy in Ankara. Every year since May 2002, intensive language courses and a socio-cultural programme which last several months have been held at the Goethe-Institut in Ankara, in close coordination with the Diyanet and the German Embassy. The purpose of the courses is to prepare imams for their posting in Germany.

The course lasts about five months and, in addition to providing intensive study of the German language, is intended to familiarize the participants with current socio-political issues in Germany. The German Embassy is involved in implementing the socio-cultural programme. The topics covered include the German Constitution, the media, the health and education systems, public offices and authorities, integration, and Christianity and Islam in Germany. Since 2006, the programme has been supplemented by a one-week socio-cultural course run by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The aim is to give imams intensive preparation for interaction with German authorities, schools, etc. during their four-year posting in a Turkish-speaking Muslim community in Germany.

Between 50 and 60 of the 120 or so imams who are sent from Turkey to Germany every year can participate in each intensive course, and about 400 imams in all have taken part so far. Since 2006, female preachers (vaize) have also been taking part. Participants are selected by means of a two-part internal procedure at the Diyanet.

The language and socio-cultural courses for imams are a good example of how bilateral cooperation can benefit both sides: Turkey, as it strives to grow closer to Europe, and Germany, in its endeavours to promote the use of German in Turkey and integrate Muslims of Turkish origin. That is why the course has received support from the Federal Foreign Office since its inception, in line with Germany’s cultural relations and education policy.

Overall costs are borne in roughly equal amounts by both the German and Turkish sides.

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Trained in the language and culture: 50 imams who will be preaching in Germany, seen here with the German Ambassador to Ankara (front row, centre)

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