Youth

    Islam in the Classroom

    Copyright: Edition Körberstiftung
    Islam in the Classroom

    Interaction with Muslims is part of everyday life in German schools. Religion is often seen as the cause of many problems, and many Muslims use Islam to justify their position on school activities such as swimming lessons and class trips.

    Reducing everything to a question of religion is, however, too simple. In the main, a much more complex mesh of religion, tradition, and Islamism is at work, one which it is difficult to disentangle.

    Breaktime at a German secondary school. The teacher Gisela Meier is collecting money for the class trip to the North Sea. They’re due to leave in three days, and some pupils still haven’t paid. Fatma Aydemir promised days ago that she would bring the money, but today she still didn’t have it with her.

    Gisela Meier has had enough. She doesn’t want to wait any longer and she phones the girl’s parents. The mother answers, and says that yes, of course, she will send the money tomorrow. The next day, however, Fatma looks embarrassed: she still hasn’t brought any money. Now she won’t be able to go on the trip. Meier is annoyed: she simply cannot understand why parents don’t appreciate the importance of class trips for the development of their children. At the very least she wants an explanation. During a home visit to the parents, she finds out that Fatma’s father does not allow his daughter to go on class trips. Two years ago Fatma was allowed to go, but now, they say, she’s fifteen and at an age when that is no longer possible. No further explanation.

    In the staffroom the following day Gisela Meier tells her colleagues what happened, commenting that this is simply the way it is in Muslim families, there’s nothing to be done about it, it’s a familiar story. After a certain age, Muslim girls are not allowed to go beyond the control of the family.

    This kind of explanation is prevalent in staffrooms across Germany. It’s an explanation that appears to clarify everything, but one which is not necessarily accurate.

    The difficulty with Islam

    Why is Fatma not allowed to go on class trips? How am I supposed to plan sports lessons when seven out of twelve girls routinely do not want to take part? Why does Mahmut in year 10 want to participate in the teachers’ meeting about his sister in year 8? Should I extend the maths project deadline because half the class is fasting? It makes me so angry: Hüseyin is going about loudly voicing the opinion that female pupils in revealing clothes have no grounds for complaint if they’re harassed by the boys. The lack of respect that Muslim boys show to us women teachers is intolerable! – All these, and many other similar questions and complaints, can be heard in German staffrooms.

    In the interaction with Islam and with Muslim pupils, very different problems, questions, and answers usually tend to get mixed together. I would therefore like to suggest how this confusion could be structured to provide a basis for the development of approaches to negotiation and problem-solving in everyday school situations.

    Download SymbolSanem Kleff: Islam in the classroom (pdf, 28 KB)

    Sanem Kleff is a board member of Aktioncourage e.V. and director of the European project Schools WITHOUT Racism—Schools WITH Courage in Germany.

    January 2007

    Translation: Aingeal Flanagan

    Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Fikrun wa Fann

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