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Austin Cline

Islam in German Schools

By April 22, 2004

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Muslim students are having trouble coping with the standards in German schools - not the academic standards, but the social and behavioral standards which sometimes contradict Islamic teachings. Examples include sex education, co-ed sports (like swimming), and more. What are Muslim students to do? Must they conform and adapt, or must German schools adapt to them?

Deutsche Welle reports:

Though no reliable statistics are available, school authorities across the country say that an increasing number of Muslim parents are demanding exempt their daughters on religious grounds from co-ed swimming, sports and biology classes. ... “It’s a difficult situation,” said Marion Berning, director of the Rixdorfer primary school, one of the largest in Berlin’s Neukölln district, where girls with headscarves are a common sight. “We have Muslim girls who say they don’t want to swim with the boys. It’s obvious the parents exert pressure on them, but they (the parents) have to accept that coeducation is part of German schools."
[M]aking exceptions for Muslim students amounts to giving preferential treatment to one religion, and could lead to their isolation, said Turgut Hüner. The chairman of the Turkish Parents Organization in Berlin-Brandenburg believes the trend among Muslim parents to exempting their children from class has been fueled by the introduction of Islamic religious classes in German school. ... He criticized Berlin school authorities for allowing organizations such as the strongly-conservative Islamic Federation, which is on German law enforcement's watch list, to impart Islamic instruction in 28 schools in the German capital.

Striking a balance here will be difficult - and it will have important implications for the future of German society. It is understandable that Muslims would want to stand up for their rights and their beliefs; at the same time, though, it is also understandable that the educational system would not want to make exceptions that treat one religious group differently from everyone else.

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