The idea may seem odd to Americans, who are accustomed to government-funded schools being free of religious education. However, Germany offers voluntary religious instruction in its schools, for perhaps 40 minutes per week.
*For the first time, German public schools are offering classes in Islam to primary school students using state-trained teachers and specially written textbooks, as officials try to better integrate the nation’s large Muslim minority and counter the growing influence of radical religious thinking.
The classes offered in Hesse State are part of a growing consensus that Germany, after decades of neglect, should do more to acknowledge and serve its Muslim population if it is to foster social harmony, overcome its aging demographics and head off a potential domestic security threat.
The Hesse curriculum effectively places Islamic instruction on equal footing with similarly state-approved ethics training in the Protestant and Catholic faiths. By offering young Muslims a basic introduction to Islam as early as first grade, emphasizing its teachings on tolerance and acceptance, the authorities hope to inoculate young people against more extreme religious views while also signaling state acceptance of their faith.*
Each German state sets its own education policy, and all of western states offer some form of Islamic instruction. Hesse differs from the other states because it has established a university curriculum for training its teachers of Islam, and will be providing those teachers. It seems very sensible to certify that the teachers have an understanding of conventional Islam.
Some cities in the state of Hesse which may be familiar to non-Germans include Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, and Mainz.