Germany's government is granting five of its public universities up to €4 million ($5.7 million) each to develop Islamic theology programs. The Osnabrück experiment, the first German university course of its kind, has gained a great deal of attention. During a recent class, news cameras and reporters circled the students, men dressed neatly in suit jackets and a single row of head-scarved women.
Among the seminar's revelations for Selman Yavuz, who leads a small Muslim congregation in western Germany, was that according to a Roman Catholic doctrine, the church holds Muslims in "esteem." "Many of us didn't know that they believe such good things about us," said Mr. Yavuz, 32 years old. "It changes your thinking."
In Germany, the program is widely regarded as a paradigm-shifting if belated acknowledgment that Islam is now a permanent part of German life.
But broader acceptance of the university programs by Germany's Muslims—who have roots in different countries and varying religious interpretations—is by no means certain.
One challenge is that nearly 90% of the nation's imams come from abroad, particularly Turkey, and many promote an Islam that is "oriented to Turkey," said Rauf Ceylan, professor of religious sciences at the University of Osnabrück, and therefore "disturb the integration process."