German Minister Says Public Schools Should Require Islam Classes

Schools in Germany should offer Islam — along with Christianity and Judaism — as a required religion class in the future, the nation's interior minister said Thursday, but insisted the courses be taught in German.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters it would take a while before Muslim community leaders work out a legally binding agreement with the state, but that an agreement on the issue had been reached.

"It will take some time, but we are moving ahead," Schaeuble told reporters, following a third conference with representatives of Germany's estimated 3 million Muslims and government officials. Other participants said it would take several years before the classes become available.

Both sides have wrangled for years over the issue of teaching Islam in state-run schools, where religion classes are required by law. Pupils currently only have the option between Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism. Many schools also offer ethics classes as an alternative.

Offering Islam in schools will be "a very, very considerable contribution to integration and peaceful coexistence," said Bekir Alboga, a spokesman for the Muslim participants.

Germany's Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches, as well as the Jewish community, already have established legal partnerships with the state.

Participants in the conference, set up in 2006 in an attempt to improve often strained relations between Germans and the nation's Muslim community — dominated by roughly 2.2 million Turks — also agreed to support construction of more mosques in Germany and fight against Islamic radicalism.