At Friday prayers, the area around Berlin’s Sehitlik mosque can seem like a forgotten corner of Istanbul. It’s not just the traditional Ottoman mosque, complete with dome, twin minarets and pierced screens, or the fact that many of the older faithful greet each other in Turkish. Even the sermon, as it crackles over the loudspeakers, is in Turkish.
But in recent months the new imam has also started to preach in German. It is the first time the Sehitlik, one of Berlin’s biggest mosques, has had an imam who speaks German. But he still comes from Turkey. He had to be recruited from another country because there is no way to train as an imam in Germany.
Things are about to change. In April, Osnabrück University is set to open Germany’s first imam training course - a move Prof Rauf Ceylan, a leading Islamic scholar and one of the founders of the project, says is a vital step in combating extremism.
“Ninety per cent of imams still come from abroad. They don’t speak German and the German culture is alien to them. Young Muslims want German-speaking imams,” says Prof Ceylan.