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Prevention of extremism and the development of museum-educational approaches for influential communicators in Muslim communities

Collaborative project with the Institut für Islamische Theologie at the University of Osnabrück

The project will provide intercultural educational content to supplement the further education course for imams in Osnabrück, and new teaching material will be developed for use in mosque congregations. This will also ensure that future intakes of students to the course receive training in intercultural issues. With the hands-on participation of the imams we are involving a group of people who play an important role in the lives of Islamic communities and in the educational work of mosques, ensuring, on one hand, that the content is demand-oriented and, on the other hand, that it can be immediately applied in community work.

The mosques can thus develop their educational programmes with the support of the museum and the university, benefitting the whole community. At the same time, the project will increase the cultural participation of Muslims by involving them more closely than before in the work of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The participation of minorities in crucial social processes is one of the prerequisites of a functioning shared society, and in this, culture has an important role to play; one of both pronounced symbolic meaning and great practical use.

The project will focus on how progressive coexistence can function in a heterogeneous multicultural society. An important element in this is making both Muslim migrants (and their German-born offspring) and the ‘social majority’ aware of the close and long-standing ties between the different cultures, and placing positive examples from history in a modern context. The starting point is the similarity between the formative contexts of the three monotheistic religions and the numerous cultures which surrounded them in late antiquity. The centuries-old links between the religions and cultures will also be emphasized.

Why this project? Second- to fourth-generation descendants of Muslim migrants are already living in Germany. This means that they are German, even though this is still often denied in many quarters. However, they and the newly arrived Muslim migrants are increasingly under pressure to declare themselves culturally and are frequently perceived as representatives of “Islam”. They encounter sweeping judgements and simplistic collective stereotyping, making it more difficult to freely develop an individual identity. For many, this increases the temptation to adopt as their self-image an ostensibly unambiguous and tension-free persona. To those facing exclusion, extreme positions promise a feeling of power, which is why they attract a following. Integration and conciliation then become hard to achieve. Our collaborative project works to prevent this by communicating open and tolerant images of self and other and promoting constructive coexistence, all with continual reference to the Museum’s collection and the history of its objects. Incorporating inter-cultural education in support of social change is prevention work at the earliest possible stage.

Project director: Prof. Bülent Uҫar (Institut für Islamische Theologie), Prof. Stefan Weber (Museum für Islamische Kunst)
Research associate and coordinator: Roman Singendonk, M. A.
Project assistants: Rafiqa Younes, M. A. (outreach), Dr. Ismael Yavuzcan (religious and community education)
Project sponsors: University of Osnabrück, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Patrons: Die Beauftragte der Bunderegierung für Kultur und Medien, Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur, Niedersächsische Lotto-Sport-Stiftung
Duration: October 2015 to September 2018