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Publicly Funded Islamic Education in Europe. A Story of Adaptation and Transformation to Context

Panel Chair: Jenny Berglund | Tuesday, August 25, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Since the time of 9/11 and the Madrid/London bombings, public debate about Islam and Muslims have directed attention towards places of Islamic education with a focus on the often controversial and contested manner in which they have been depicted in the media, in public discourse and, within Muslim communities themselves. In Europe numerous Muslim children, teenagers, and even adults attend privately run supplementary classes on Islam in the afternoons or on weekends, while others are taught at home or attend private schools. An emerging option in European countries is to provide publicly funded Islamic education – an alternative that lies at the heart of questions concerning religious freedom, equal rights to education, integration and social cohesion, but that is also connected to issues of securitization and the control of Islam. The aim of this panel is to provide presentations of publicly funded pre-university Islamic education and to discuss the transformation and adaptation of Islamic education within European contexts.

Tuula Sakaranaho

Putting religious rights into practice: Islamic Education in Finland and Ireland

In Finland and the Republic of Ireland, Islamic Education is adapted to a “denominational pattern,” although in different contexts respectively. In both countries, Muslims who are active with respect to Islamic (Religious) Education seem to work harmoniously with the state authorities towards the goal of a multicultural society in accordance with state policies concerning integration and education. My presentation will analyze the case of Islamic education in Finland and Ireland from the perspective of action coordination involving both the state and their Muslim counterparts. In this way I will illustrate some of the complexities involved in putting religious rights into practice in a multicultural society.

Damian Breen

Increased state-funded Islamic schooling as a pathway to political enfranchisement for British Muslims

The expansion of state-funded Muslim schools in Britain has developed against a backdrop of key moments in global public consciousness such as the attacks of September 11th 2001, the declaration of the 'war on terror' and more recent anxieties around the rise of the 'Islamic State' (ISIS). At the national level, further questions have been raised in the media and far right political movements about the compatibility of Islam and 'Englishness' following the death of Lee Rigby in May 2013. Through a Critical Race Theory (CRT) analysis, this paper argues that existing and emergent frameworks for state faith schooling have failed to meet the requirements of British Muslim communities. This has a dual effect. Firstly, education is lost as a key site for developing partnerships and fostering increased political enfranchisement for British Muslim communities. Secondly, Muslim interests become displaced from mainstream British politics, reinforcing Islamaphobic public narratives of 'otherness'.

Elena Arigita

Teaching Islam and about Islam in the Spanish public system: the confessional and the cultural approach to a controversial heritage

Is Islam part of Spain as a cultural and historical formation and identity? If we observe this issue through the lens of education, we’ll see how the subjects of history of Spain and that named religion (which is given as part of the agreement with the officially recognized confessions) interact in the school to create a narrative that makes Islam as part of a historical past and as a present of a immigrant minority. This paper will look at this interaction within the primary school through interviews with a group of teachers of the subject named “Islam” to investigate about their own training and the requirements and process to be allowed to teach Islam, about the curricula and about the challenges that poses the secular frame of the school with the aim of training their pupils in the Islamic tradition in a country whose Islamic heritage keeps being a source of controversy.

Bahaeddin Budak

Identity construction of Dutch Islamic schools

In 1988 in the Netherlands two Islamic primary schools were founded, funded by the Dutch government – one school by the Turkish community in Rotterdam, the other by the Moroccan community in Eindhoven. In this presentation we present the process of identity construction of these two Islamic primary schools. We inform about the arguments and underpinnings that dominated the process of identity construction. Hindering as well as facilitating factors are discussed. We show the practicalities of the concretization of the Islamic identity by the teams of teachers of these schools, the principal (most of teachers and principals were non-Muslims), and the board in dialogue with the parents. We show in what way they adapted to the Dutch educational context. We explore the external and internal factors that are related to the construction of the religious identity of these two Islamic schools.

Jenny Berglund

A Litmus Test on State relations to Muslim Minorities

In this presentation I will compare and analyze state funded Islamic education in five European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, UK) pointing to the transformations and adaptations that Muslim communities have, on different levels, done to fit into each educational setting. The presentation shows that issues of integration, social cohesion, but also Islamophobia in each national setting affect what in the end becomes Islamic education. I will argue that it is possible to understand publicly funded religious education as a litmus test for church-state relations and that the specific study of publicly funded Islamic education can be seen as a litmus test for the relation between various Western democracies and their Muslim minority populations.


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