Germany to set up first Islamic theology department

Osnabrueck, Germany - Germany is to set up its first university department of Islamic theology to train imams, the northern state of Lower Saxony said Friday. The state-funded unit will be an institute attached to the University of Osnabrueck.

Germany already has university professors who train schoolteachers for Islamic instruction. The further move has been urged by Berlin to end German mosques' dependence on imams trained in Turkey, Iran or Arab nations.

Confirming a report in the newspaper Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung, a state interior ministry spokesman said other state interior ministers would be briefed soon on the plans.

The German taxpayer already funds university departments of Christian theology and Jewish studies.

"Imported" imams have sometimes been accused of fundamentalism that is out of step with life in Germany.

Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Thursday, "The academic status is needed because Islamic theology based in Germany can offer appropriate answers to issues of Muslim life in the diaspora."

But some Islamists have been suspicious of all European-based Islamic theology, dubbing it "Euro-Islam."