WEISBADEN, GERMANY - The introduction of Islamic religious education is approaching the finishing line in the German state of Hesse. These faith-oriented classes could begin in the 2013-2014 school year, Nicole Beer, minister of education and cultural affairs in Wiesbaden, said in March.
In their 2009 coalition agreement, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) introduced faith-oriented religious education into state schools. Students in many public schools already are required to attend classes about Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism, unless they receive permission to take a civics class instead. 
Beer said the religious education would take place in German; also, it would become a compulsory subject, determining whether students could move up grades. The CDU opposed adding the Islam classes.
According to an expert report, two Muslim regional associations, Ditib and Ahmadiyya, fulfill the necessary requirements. Jörg Uwe Hahn, minister of integration and Hessian FDP chairman, said in March he has always compared the introduction of such a religious education with a marathon. “Now Ditib and Ahmadiyya have reached the stadium again, but there are two or three more laps to run,” he said. The final decision could be made towards the end of the summer holidays.
Hesse's FDP said the classes will run differently than similar classes already established in North-Rhine Westphalia, where students learn from professors who may not be well-versed in the Islamic community. Rather, there would be religious education provided by Muslim community organizations, but still in accordance with the requirements of the German Constitution. In order to achieve that, scholars of Islam as well as Gerhard Robbers, scholar of state law on religious organizations in Trier, have examined two formal requests by Islamic associations Ditib Hessen and Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in order to be recognized as religious communities. (German Atheists note: this recognition entails many special rights.)
Both associations fulfilled the requirements, according to Robbers. Although Turkish-Islamic union Ditib Hessen had not existed for a very long time as an association, but had come out of Ditib communities that had existed for 30 years. Also, Ditib would be sufficiently independent from the Turkish state to provide their own religious studies in Hesse, according to Robbers. With the Ahmadiyya community as well, appropriate religious education consistent with state requirements and educational goals would be “safely possible,” Robbers said. However, the state would have to “accompany” such an education “with intensive observation” of both communities. The state should also screen lessons locally, Robbers said. Additionally, teachers would have to be qualified according to the Hessian teaching guidelines, as well as be of the Muslim faith and be recognized by the respective community. There have already been enough teachers joined up for a start. The classes would be taught in schools wherever at least eight Islamic children would come together and a teacher would be available, Beer said.
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 The original Welt Online article (in German): http://www.welt.de/newsticker/
 DW article on religious education in German schools: http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,