KU Leuven to launch first training programme for Belgian imams


Aim is to reduce influence of foreign Islamic schools, says justice minister Koen Geens

Home schooling

A training programme for imams and others seeking instruction in the Islamic faith is to begin next year at KU Leuven. The aim of the programme, which is the first of its kind in Belgium, is to persuade people with an Islamic vocation to study at home rather than abroad.

“We are building a Belgian training programme for ministers in the Islamic faith in order to reduce foreign influence,” said Koen Geens, the federal justice minister. “It’s important that we know what they are studying.”

As well as imams, the programme is aimed at people preparing for other roles in the Islamic faith, such as counsellors, pastors and theologians. The goal is to make sure that their religious knowledge is accompanied by an appreciation of Belgium’s laws and social values.

The initial programme at KU Leuven will be taught in Dutch and should last a minimum of two years. It will consist of courses on law, political science, religious psychology and sociology, Arabic philosophy, ethics and the history of the Middle East and North Africa.

Koranic studies

This will be followed by a longer period of theological training, including study of the Koran and some kind of internship. This will be given by AFOR, a newly established academy for Islamic studies set up in consultation with the government and the Executive of Belgian Muslims

KU Leuven expects to welcome around 30 students to the programme when it starts in February. To be eligible, candidates will need a diploma of secondary education from a Belgian institution, or a recognised equivalent.

According to the government, discussions are under way with UCLouvain about a similar programme for French-speaking imams.

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