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Expert: Imam Education Requires Rethink

According to a German expert in Islam, more attention should be paid to the education of imams teaching in Finland. Mounir Azzaoui, Fellow of the German National Academic Foundation, warns that badly educated imams may have religious views which would not fit into Finnish society.

Suomen islamilaisen yhdyskunnan imaami Anas Hajjar.
Suomen islamilaisen yhdyskunnan imaami Anas Hajjar. Image: YLE

According to the Islamic Society of Finland, there are around 40 to 50 imams in Finland both teaching and conducting religious services at mosques and prayer rooms. Their educational backgrounds vary.

"Many have studied in their communities or in their home countries. What’s needed is a degree from an institute of higher education for all imams, says Anas Hajjar, imam from the Islamic Society of Finland.

Azzaoui predicts that as the number of muslims in Finland grows, the educational background of imams will begin to attract more attention. He believes that imams seeking to teach and conduct religious services in Finland should study in a Finnish university or insitute of higher education rather than in Islamic countries.

Hajjar gained his own religious knowledge in Syria:

"I learned at home from my great grandfather’s students. I have carried on my studies in Finland in my new community."

However, he says the situation is complex.

"An imam trained in Finland will know Finland. But what’s really needed is an Islamic professorship in a university. And something like that would require a lot of support. A non-muslim cannot teach a muslim religious issues", Hajjar adds.

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