In this Der Spiegel article religious scholar Rauf Ceylan discusses the role of the imam in Germany. He advocates for a “homegrown” imam who can modernize the religion and its practice in a new nation. As imams are currently imported from abroad for four-year periods, Islamic leaders are not fully equipped to lead a German Muslim congregation or relate to their needs. More alarmingly, the imported imams often have limited German language abilities, making it more difficult for them to gain awareness of extremists in their midst.
Ceylan makes a convincing case for the need of an autonomous German Islamic identity to grow out of a German theological education system. To continue importing religious leaders from abroad who return to their country of origin set up German Muslims for stagnation. If a relevant Islamic tradition is to grow in Germany, the imams should most likely be German. Also, the extremists seek out youths under the age of 25. Perhaps with more relatable leaders, these youths would not be so vulnerable to outsider influence.
The interview with Ceylan is a nice counterpart to the March 5 Der Spiegel article “Importing Germany’s Imams.” See the MGP post here.