New degree programme at FAU starts in winter semester 2012/13: ‘Society needs to provide a platform for academic exchange’
Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) has opened the new Department Islamic Religious Studies (DIRS). The project with its vast scientific scope will be funded by the German government with 4.4 million euros over five years and starts with four professorships. By the turn of the year, four research groups for doctoral candidates will be established in order to promote high-class research in the field. FAU will then be one of only four centres in Germany offering Islamic religious studies. Students can already enrol in the the new Bachelor’s degree programme ‘Islamic Religious Studies’ which starts in the upcoming winter semester.
On Thursday 27 September 2012, numerous renowned speakers from politics and academia welcomed over 120 guests at the opening ceremony in the Wassersaal of the Orangery at FAU.
‘Islam has been commonplace in German society for a long time.. Now, it is up to us as a society – not least in view of the most recent debates – to create platforms that allow for academic exchange with an adequate theoretical foundation. What could be a better place for doing so than in research and teaching?’ says Prof. Dr. Karl-Dieter Grüske, President of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, at the opening ceremony of the DIRS. ‘FAU has long since come to the conclusion that there is a need for academic reflection on Islam as a lived and practised religion in the institutions of higher education of our country.’
Dr. Wolfgang Heubisch, the Bavarian State Minister for Science, Research and the Arts, refers to the establishment of the department as ‘an exceptional academic project which will have an impact on the entire university landscape in Germany.’ He thereby underlines FAU’s pioneering role in the field: ‘The newly established department will train teachers for Islam studies in keeping with FAU’s proven quality standards. FAU at the forefront of developments in the field since it offered such training courses as early as 2003. To some extent, even the recommendations of the German Council of Science and Humanities on the establishment of degree programmes in Islamic religious studies in Germany are based on the experiences of the model project in Erlangen.
Thomas Rachel,Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, stressed the importance of excellence in research and theological discourse at German universities: ‘Worldwide, Germany is by far the country with the longest and most comprehensive experience in theology as a university subject. In keeping with this tradition, we want to promote and enhance research at Germany universities by offering support for Islamic religious studies. The new centres also offer a perfect environment for intensive theological discourse at the universities and more visible religious diversity. Cultural and religious diversity is also a source, an opportunity, an initiator and a guide to social renewal.’
Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian State Minister of the Interior, points out which contribution to integration the new department can make: ‘One of the essential goals of our integration policy is to provide Muslim citizens who have chosen to live here with a cultural and religious home as well – aat the centre of our society and not outside it. Openly displaying one’s religious affiliations and practising them but also studying and teaching them on an academic level are core achievements of our constitutional state which are anchored firmly in the German constitution. In view of the long tradition of Islamic religious studies at FAU, I am certain that the new Bachelor’s degree programme is in very good hands.’
In order to offer a broad range of topics in the degree programme, the DIRS closely co-operates with the Erlangen Central Institute ‘Anthropology of Religion(s)’ at FAU, which was founded as an academic platform for interdisciplinary religious and anthropological research and brings together academics from different faculties. At present, the initiative involves 38 researchers from four faculties and schools.. Moreover, the Bachelor’s degree programme Islamic Religious Studies is supplemented by classes taught by lecturers from other disciplines such as Oriental and Islamic studies, politics, sociology, psychology and theology. By introducing DIRS, FAU aims to set up a dialogue between traditional academic Islam studies and the current scientific discourse on religious practice.
In contrast to other institutions offering programmes in Islamic religious studies, FAU has set itself the task to embrace the different versions of Islam practised in Bavaria and to integrate them into the degree programme rather than to limit the curriculum to one particular form. Accordingly, the members of the Advisory Board which will assist FAU’s Executive Board with regard to the curricular focus of the programme and the appointment of professors come from an international background and represent different versions of Islamic faith. The rules of the collaboration with the Advisory Board are governed by a constitution. Prof. Dr. Mathias Rohe, Head of the Erlangen Centre for Islam and Law (EZIRE) and Chair of Civil Law, Private International Law and Comparative Law, an expert in Islam and Islamic law, has been appointed as Head of the Advisory Board and will liaise with the Advisory Board members and FAU’s Executive Board.
The DIRS currently comprises four professorships: The existing professorship for Islamic religious education held by Prof. Dr. Harry Harun Behr, who will also act as the DIRS spokesperson, will be integrated into the DIRS. Prof. Dr. Maha El-Kaisy Friemuth was appointed for the professorship for Islamic religious studies with a practical focus starting in the winter semester. Prof. El-Kaisy Friemuth last taught Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. FAU was able to appoint Prof. Dr. Reza Hajatpour for the professorship for Islamic religious studies with a systematic focus. He last held the position of Associate Professor for Iranian studies at the University of Bamberg and at the Oriental Seminar of the University of Tübingen. There is currently a call for applications for the professorship for Islamic religious studies with a focus on textual studies; the post will be filled temporarily in the winter semester 2012/13.
Since the appointments for the professorships have been made and students can currently enrol for the degree programme, the department and the degree programme are now to be extended and refined in the weeks and months to come. Classes offered in the winter semester include introductory lectures to Islamic religious studies andQuran studies. At the turn of the year, four research groups for doctoral candidates will be started so as to prepare the doctoral students for a university career in Islamic religious studies and to allow for high-class research at the department. The Mercator Foundation has already granted a postgraduate programme, in which FAU will participate.
Prospective students can still enrol for the Bachelor’s degree programme Islamic religious studies starting in the winter semester 2012/13. Further information on the degree programme and enrolment can be found on the University’s homepage at http://tinyurl.com/buxzeyr.
Prof. Johanna Haberer
Phone +49 (0)9131 85 29313