Islamic Religious Education in Europe

online book launch on 18 May 2021

Islamic Religious Education in Europe

Against the backdrop of labour migration and the ongoing refugee crisis, the ways in which Islam is taught and engaged with in educational settings has become a major topic of contention in Europe. Recognizing the need for academic engagement around the challenges and benefits of effective Islamic Religious Education (IRE), the new publication Islamic Religious Education in Europe. A Comparative Study edited by Leni Franken and Bill Gent (Routledge, April 2021) offers a comparative study of curricula, teaching materials, and teacher education in fourteen European countries, and in doing so, explores local, national, and international complexities of contemporary IRE.

Considering the ways in which Islam is taught and represented in state schools, public Islamic schools, and non-confessional classes, part one of this volume includes chapters which survey the varying degrees to which fourteen European States have adopted IRE into curricula, and considers the impacts of varied teaching models on Muslim populations. Part two offers multi-disciplinary perspectives – from the hermeneutical-critical to the postcolonial – to address challenges posed by religious teachings on issues such as feminism, human rights, and citizenship, and the ways these are approached in European settings.

Starting from the book project, UCSIA, together with the Centre Pieter Gillis, an academic platform for interreligious dialogue, active pluralism and interdisciplinary reflection and the Interuniversity Centre for Education Law, specialized in educational rights and education law and policy, has programmed an international conference on the subject matter. Due to the health situation it has been postponed to March 2022.

Date & Time

Tuesday 18 May 2021
5.00 – 6.30 p.m. UTC+2
Compare to your time zone.


Online via Zoom.
How does it work?


Free entrance.
Please register online in advance.


5.00 p.m.

Welcome by Stijn Latré, Director of UCSIA

5.05 p.m.

Introduction by moderator, Leni Franken, senior researcher at the Centre Pieter Gillis of the University of Antwerp

5.10 p.m.

Islamic Religious Education in Europe and European Recommendations as Mutual Challenges

Lecture by Martin Rothgangel, Head of the Institute of Religious Education at the Faculty of Protestant Theology of the University of Vienna.

It is striking how heterogeneous IRE and Islamic schools are organised in Europe. The very different historical backgrounds are a decisive influence, which can lead to a regional education system even within individual countries (as is the case in Belgium). In addition, the following challenges are present in almost every country:

  • expectations of the state regarding Islamic communities
  • critical public discourse on Islam
  • respective headlines on Islam in the media
  • threats from right-wing parties
  • the influence of Turkey or Saudi Arabia or both
  • a diversified Islamic community, resulting in Muslim pupils with different linguistic, cultural, and national backgrounds

This shows the enormous challenge that any European recommendation faces.

For a long time, the matter of religion and education was not an issue for the Council of Europe, but this changed after 9/11 with the Toledo Guiding Principles of 2007. In this document, ‘two core principles’ of relevance for Islamic religious education (IRE) can be underlined:
“first, that there is positive value in teaching that emphasizes respect for everyone’s right to freedom of religion and belief, and second, teaching about religions and beliefs can reduce harmful misunderstandings and stereotypes” (Jackson 2014, 26).

In addition, the Commission of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec (December 2008), which was further developed in Signposts (2014), deserves particular attention. The dominant perspective here is that religion is a cultural phenomenon, and corresponding learning processes are understood as a special aspect of intercultural learning.

Martin Rothgangel is Professor of Religious Education and Head of the Institute of Religious Education at the Faculty of Protestant Theology of the University of Vienna. His main fields of research are anti-semitism as a challenge for religious education, religious education at schools in Europe, religious education and theory of science, research designs of religious education and theory of subject-matter education.

He is also an Affiliated Professor of the University of Haifa since 2018, he was a member of the selection committee of the Quality Offensive Teacher Education in Germany, an expert for various national science foundations (e.g. DFG, FWF, ISF) and for various scientific commissions (e.g. Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria: Accreditation of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Almaty, Kazakhstan, 2014; Scientific Commission of Lower Saxony: Evaluation of the Institute of Islamic Theology at the University of Osnabrück, 2017).

He is editor-in-chief of ‘Theo-Web. Zeitschrift für Religionspädagogik’ (Theo-Web. Academic Journal of Religious Education) and of “RISTAL Research in Subject-matter Teaching and Learning”.

5.30 p.m.

Islamic Education within the Muslim Minority Context of Europe: Pedagogy, Politics, and Future Directions

Lecture by Abdullah Sahin, Reader in Islamic Education at the Department for Education Studies, University of Warwick, UK.

Education is a complex concept that touches upon all aspects of human life but is easily reduced to a few taken for granted assumptions. In today’s increasingly plural European societies, the presence of diverse ‘educational cultures’, -the product of immigration and globalization-, generated diverse perceptions and expectations associated with the phenomenon of religious education. Starting from the contemporary discussions on the social and educational significance of religion in Western European societies, Abdullah Sahin, urges us to rethink critically the relevance of certain culturally specific assumptions as to what constitutes Islamic education in modern plural Europe.

  • Is education in Islam a rigid form of cultural transmission, instruction and indoctrination incapable of generating a theological language of faith and personal development?
  • Can IRE be contextual, open, critical and capable of responding to the changing needs of European Muslim children and young people?
  • Can Islamic ethos education promote intra-faith diversity and enable interfaith/intercultural understanding while sharing the broader ideals of Western civic and democratic education?

The task of rethinking these questions is urgent if European Muslim educators are to respond to the religious and spiritual identity needs of Muslim children and young people, before their religious agency is exploited by various transnational Islamic revivalist networks. Nurturing critical voices of educational and religious leadership remains crucial for IRE to become a transformative force for European Muslims.

Abdullah Sahin is Reader in Islamic Education at the Department for Education Studies, University of Warwick, UK. He comes from an Islamic studies, theology, educational studies and social sciences background. He has conducted research on religious identity formation among British Muslim youth and worked on educational strategies to address the impact of religious extremism within Muslim minority and majority contexts. Dr. Sahin has developed the first recognized Masters’ level degree programme on Islamic education within the UK higher education system. He has taught at the universities of Birmingham, Aberdeen, and the Gulf University for Science and Technology (Kuwait). Before taking up his appointment at Warwick, Dr. Sahin worked as a Head of Research and Senior Lecturer at the Markfield Institute of Higher education. He served as a visiting professor (2009/10 Academic Year) at the Institut d’Etudes de l’Islam et des Sociétés du Monde Musulman at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. Dr Sahin is a member of International Seminar on Religious Education and Values (ISREV) and has recently been appointed as a Visiting Professor at the UIN State Islamic University in Jakarta, Indonesia.

5.50 p.m.

Responses by co-authors

6.10 p.m.

Discussion & Q&A

6.30 p.m.


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