Interview with Hasan Karaca

Koran Verses in German and Turkish

Many imams who preach in Germany don't speak German – their native language is Turkish. Ariana Mirza talked to Hasan Karaca, the German representative of the Turkish Office of Religious Affairs, Diyanet, about possible solutions

Hasan Karaca (photo: Stephan Schmidt)
Imams preaching in Germany ought to be familiar with the country's living conditions, Hasan Karaca says

​​Mr Karaca, how do imams prepare for working in Germany?

Hasan Karaca: Since 2002, imams and lay preachers have to take a course in the German language and culture alongside their theological training. The Goethe Institute organises a four-month obligatory course, consisting of about 400 teaching hours. And since last year, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation has offered an additional one-week intensive course on Germany and its culture. 50 imams took part in the pilot project last year. In 2007 all 100 imams who go to Germany after their training will go through this intensive course.

The imams are only allowed to stay in Germany for four years. Isn't that counterproductive?

Karaca: You're right. But it's due to the legislation in both countries. It's to do with residency laws and other requirements. The German and Turkish ministers are talking about the problem of course, and perhaps there will be a solution in the foreseeable future. But I do see another perspective alongside longer stays for Turkish imams.

In my opinion it would help if more German citizens of Turkish origin were trained as imams. Best of all in Germany itself. There is currently a pilot project doing just that at the theological faculty in Frankfurt. If it takes off, we could actually start making structural changes. We'd have theologists and imams who are familiar with the living conditions in Germany, whose teaching could be adapted to life here. We are looking into setting up courses like this at other German universities as well.

How do you react to the calls to make what goes on in mosques more transparent? Can you imagine imams preaching in German?

Karaca: Preaching in German is certainly something we're thinking about. But one mustn't forget that many Muslims don't speak German very well. So most services should still be held in Turkish. But we can well imagine reading Qu'ran verses in German and Turkish, and it is already happening in some mosques. In the near future, perhaps even by the end of the year, we'll also be able to offer German summaries of the Friday sermon in several large DITIB mosques. So we are certainly planning to use more German.

What about female imams?

Karaca: There aren't any female imams. But there are female Muslim theologists and preachers. Two women preachers took part in last year's intensive course, and one of them is now working in Germany.

You've just accompanied twenty imams to Berlin. What brought you here?

Karaca: The Konrad Adenauer Foundation invited us, to announce the results of the intensive course evaluation. I think this kind of evaluation is very valuable, because it helps to modify the teaching content. And DIYANET is also looking into the idea of feedback, as well as DITIB. In the four years our imams spend in Germany they'll have regular meetings among themselves. But the meetings won't just be for personal dialogue. We want to use their experiences to design new content for the training courses as well.

Do the imams feel the training programmes in Turkey prepare them well for life in Germany? Or were there problems when you visited Germany together?

Karaca: Thanks to the five weeks of preparation in total, they had a fairly precise idea of Germany, which mainly corresponded with reality. But some of those who were here for the first time had expected more variation in the streets and the architecture. When we were strolling through Berlin at ten o'clock in the evening, some of the imams were surprised at how empty the streets seemed in comparison to Turkish cities. One of our group made us all laugh when he said: "Here in Germany, only dogs and imams go out at night."

Interview: Ariana Mirza

© Qantara.de 2007

Translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire

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