“If I said ‘Ger­man,’ they wouldn’t ac­cept the an­swer. They will see me as a for­eigner, even though I’m a Ger­man cit­i­zen.”

Marysville Appeal-Democrat - - FAITH -

peo­ple, or 6.1 per­cent of the Ger­man pop­u­la­tion, were Mus­lim. But less than half of those pray reg­u­larly, and even fewer reg­u­larly at­tend a mosque, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est govern­ment sur­veys.

The coun­try’s lead­ers have ex­pressed an am­biva­lent view of Is­lam, at best. See­hofer’s state­ment that “Is­lam does not be­long to Ger­many” came just months af­ter the Is­lam­bash­ing AFD, or Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many, en­tered par­lia­ment. Merkel de­nounced the state­ment and ruled out shar­ing power with the AFD. Nev­er­the­less, the AFD has steadily gained sup­port over the past two years: On Oct. 14, it scored the big­gest elec­toral gains of any party in Bavaria, Ger­many’s most pop­u­lous state.

Last year, the AFD hung cam­paign posters in Dort­mund fea­tur­ing women in burqas and the slo­gan “Stop Is­lamiza­tion.” This year’s poster bore the words “Is­lam-free schools!” un­der an im­age of five beam­ing, light­skinned chil­dren.

Sed­diqzai, who was born to Afghan par­ents in the Ger­man city of Bochum and who wears a full beard and Nikes to school, said he wor­ries about the ef­fect on his stu­dents. “Th­ese posters tell them, ‘We don’t want you here,’ “he said.

“They are not ac­cepted in Ger­many, they are not ac­cepted in the coun­tries of their par­ents, and that pro­duces this crav­ing for a group to be­long to,” he con­tin­ued. “And then an Is­lamist comes to you and says, ‘Yeah, you don’t be­long to any­one. There­fore just be Mus­lim.’ They of­fer them a third way.”

Sed­diqzai sees it as part of his job to make his stu­dents more in­formed in their con­sump­tion of such ap­peals.

Ear­lier this year, when lo­cal politi­cians were dis­cussing a ban on head­scarves, a group call­ing it­self Re­al­ity Is­lam launched a so­cial me­dia cam­paign to protest the pro­posal and re­cruit stu­dents. Sed­diqzai showed his stu­dents how to trace Re­al­ity’s Is­lam’s links to Hizb ut-tahrir, an ex­trem­ist group banned in Ger­many since 2003. He also en­cour­aged them to ques­tion the group’s stance on the headscarf, which it claimed the Ko­ran man­dates for women.

“I show them the Ko­ranic verses about the headscarf, and we dis­cuss it and we see there is no clear rule that a woman or girl has to wear a headscarf,” he said. “Most of them think the Ko­ran it­self has no con­tra­dic­tions, and even that is wrong. There are many con­tra­dic­tions in the Ko­ran.”

Some Ger­man politi­cians are push­ing for an ex­pan­sion of Is­lam classes in pub­lic schools as a way to en­cour­age the cul­tural in­te­gra­tion of Mus­lim stu­dents and to pro­mote an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lam that high­lights Ger­man val­ues.

“We need more re­li­gious ed­u­ca­tion,” Ker­stin Griese, a law­maker from the gov­ern­ing cen­ter-left So­cial Demo­cratic Party, wrote in an op-ed, “be­cause it’s the only way to start a di­a­logue about our own tra­di­tions and val­ues and to un­der­stand those of oth­ers.”

Such ad­vo­cates gen­er­ally don’t en­vi­sion non-mus­lim stu­dents tak­ing th­ese classes to gain a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Is­lam. While a few Ger­man school sys­tems of­fer reli­gion classes that in­clude mul­ti­ple faiths or ethics classes that touch on reli­gion, reli­gion as taught in pub­lic high schools and sup­ported by Ger­many’s Ba­sic Law is gen­er­ally tar­geted at spe­cific de­nom­i­na­tions.

A fur­ther ra­tio­nale for Is­lam classes is to “im­mu­nize” Mus­lim stu­dents from fun­da­men­tal­ism, as Protes­tant leader Hein­rich Bed­ford-strohm put it.

Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern is rad­i­cal­iza­tion that might lead to vi­o­lence. Since 2013, more than 1,000 peo­ple have left Ger­many to fight with or sup­port the Is­lamic State and other ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions, most of them un­der 30.

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