The idea of Danish imams being able to stay at home and be educated in Denmark was proposed this week by Anders Gadegaard, the head of Danske Kirkers Råd, the national council of churches.
The concept was praised by the national Islamic association, Det Islamiske Trossamfund.
“We applaud the idea for recognising that there is a Muslim minority living in Denmark,” the association's head, Imran Shah, told Kristeligt-Dagblad newspaper.
However, Gadegaard’s suggestion that a Denmark-based imam education would improve students' knowledge of Danish culture raised Shah’s hackles a bit.
“When you talk about imam education in that context, it sounds as if you are talking about first-generation immigrant leaders,” he said. “That is not the case. We are talking about well-educated second and third generation leaders who have been in this country for many years and who have both secular and religious educational backgrounds.”
Doable, but a long way off
The concept of state-supported imam education is not impossible, according to theology instructors at two universities where the courses could be taught.
“It’s a really good idea,” Jesper Tang Nielsen, a spokesperson for the theological faculty at the University of Copenhagen, told Kristeligt-Dagblad.
Bjarke Paarup, the head of Aarhus University’s Institute for Culture, said that the school teaches general theology and said that just as the school doesn’t specifically turn out priests, neither would it create imams.
”We wouldn’t educate imams, but we could teach Islamic theology,” Paarup told Kristeligt-Dagblad. “If it was a recognised education, then we could teach it here.”
Paarup said it would be a plus for the Danish Islamic community if imams could be educated at a typical Danish university in the same fashion as a priest for the national church.
Nielsen, however, admitted there was still a long way to go before the idea of homegrown imam education became a reality.
“The education would have to be recognised and show that it was worth investing in financially, so I think accreditation is still a long way off.”
Mohamed al Maimouni, the head of Dansk Islamisk Råd, the Danish Islamic council, said it would be an “optimal situation” if imam training was established here.
"We are very pleased and welcome the proposal with open arms,” he told DR Nyheder.
The council currently sends potential imams to a French university where they receive an education in what al Maimouni called “a moderate interpretation of Islam”.