Shallow introduction to the religious world

It is colorful, has many pictures, not too long texts – and many suggestions for discussion. The first elementary school book for Islamic religious instruction published in German is modern and appropriate for children. "Miteinander auf dem Weg" (Together on the Way) presents itself in a similar guise to some publications for young Christians.

The textbook published by the Muslim religious educator Mouhanad Khorchide from Munster, which goes on sale on Monday, gives an impression of what content should be taught in Islamic religious instruction – and what should not be taught.

Khorchide, who trains Islamic educators at the University of Munster, is also a member of the advisory board that determines the curriculum for confession-oriented Islamic religious instruction in North Rhine-Westphalia. This is to be introduced step by step in NRW as the first federal state with the new school year. And since the Muslim organizations still lack recognition as a religious community, the advisory board around Khorchide is to decide on the teaching content and books as a substitute.

Like Christian materials, the new textbook, for which the scientist is responsible, attempts to provide a shallow introduction to the religious world, linking it, for example, to the experience of the beautiful environment, Allah's creation. Here, too, the children are encouraged to let cress seeds sprout in flower pots – which almost turns the nature experiment into a cross-religious bridge-building exercise.

Only gradually do the eleven chapters with many Koranic quotations lead to the Muslim essentials. One section is dedicated to the prophet who, as a child, first loses his father and then his mother.
The orphan story appeals entirely to students' compassion and leads to the characterization of Muhammad as a person of especially good character and his appointment as prophet by the angel Gabriel.

Family chapter with clear message
Elsewhere, it is about Muslim prayer practice and the washing ritual in the mosque. However, one looks in vain for further explanations about the spiritual meaning – except for the general hint that Allah and Mohammed insist on order and cleanliness. Also, the difference between "haram" and "halal," the forbidden and permitted foods, is mentioned but hardly explained. "Allah wants this from us because it is not good for us," it says briefly.

Eight pages are devoted specifically to the family. The clear message: "We care about each other". In a dialogue, an elderly father says to his adult son: "I used to help you when you were a child, now you help me." Above all, the traditional structure of relationships and the authority of the older generation are inculcated. Young children are told to be good to their parents and to apologize in case of quarrels. The fact that fathers and mothers also sometimes make mistakes and have to ask for forgiveness does not come into view.

There are no explicit statements on three topics: the separation of the sexes in the mosque, the headscarf, and – currently the subject of political debate and certainly relevant for elementary school students – circumcision. But instead there is a chapter titled "What I can learn about other religions" with explanations about Jews and Christians. In addition, one can learn that there is an Islamic version of the prayer of shock, for example when homework is not going well. Before doing anything, one should say "Bismallah" – in the name of Allah. "Then Allah will help and everything will work out by itself."Good prospects for the new school year.

Note: "Miteinander auf dem Weg – Islamischer Religionsunterricht" (Together on the Way – Islamic Religious Education), Pupils' Book 1./2. School year, ed. by Mouhanad Khorchide, Ernst Klett Verlag, Stuttgart 2012, 16.95 euros.

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