State Neutrality and Islamic Education in Sweden
Ailin Abdullah [+]
Kista folkhögskola, Stockholm, Sweden
Jenny Berglund [+]
Public debate about Islam and Muslims often focuses on contradictions, conflicts, and contrasting value systems. Since 9/11, the bombings in Madrid and London and the recent rise of ISIS this debate has to a large extent included a fear that Muslim immigrants will be disloyal to their new Western countries, and thus requires increased surveillance and control. Conversely, others argue that Muslim populations in the West have wrongly suffered from the increasing intolerance and suspicion resulting from terrorist acts committed by a small number of radicals. Such voices point to a need to safeguard religious freedom and the right to equal treatment regardless of a group’s ethnic, cultural, linguistic, or religious background. In many European countries, these discussions have directed attention toward places of Islamic education such as Muslim schools, mosques, and Islamic organizations, focusing on the sometimes controversial manner in which they have been depicted in the media, public discourse, and, within Muslim communities themselves (Aslan 2009; Birt 2006). Religious education is both an essential and a challenging objective for minorities since the “transmission” of religious tradition to future generations is crucial to the survival of any religion. In Sweden as elsewhere in Europe many Muslim children and teenagers and even adults attend privately-run, extra-curricular Islamic classes. Some attend Islamic schools or are taught at home. Publically funded Islamic education options provided by the state are an emergent option in several European countries. These classes lie not only at the heart of debates over religious freedom, equal rights to education, and integration, but are also connected to matters of securitization and the state control of Islam. This paper will present an overview of publicly funded, mainly pre-university Islamic education in Sweden, a European Western secular Christian majority country with a Muslim minority population. Firstly, I will establish a definition of Islamic education and a description of the state funding of education and religion in general. Then, the paper will move on to describe different types of Islamic education that are available in Sweden.