Germany has the European Union’s second-largest Muslim population, and in some of the most populous cities, public schools are offering classes in Islam. First launched in the early aughts, the classes are taught by Muslims and intended for Muslim students of primary and secondary schools, and are available in nine of Germany’s 16 states. Lessons include the history of Islam, Quran teachings, and comparative religion and ethics. Teachers say that the classes create an open atmosphere for students to talk about possible identity struggles or even feelings of alienation.
Mansur Seddiqzai’s teaches Islam at a high school in the western German city of Dortmund where almost 95 percent of students are first or second-generation immigrants. His students say that his classes are very popular. “What Mr. Seddiqzai is teaching me is not really something you learn at mosque,” says 17-year-old student Yusuf Akar. “It shows me I’m welcome here. Because the school no longer demands that we distance ourselves from our religion. They accept it and even create an opportunity to learn about it. And that gives me the feeling that I’m part of this society.”