The time is ripe for considering imam training in Finland, says Archbishop Kari Mäkinen. Home-grown imams could help Finland's Muslims feel more at home, according to the head of the country’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.
“It’s important that members of the Islamic community—as those of other faiths—have strong ties to Finnish society, its language and culture,” said Mäkinen, speaking on Wednesday at a seminar in Turku on religious literacy and interfaith cooperation.
Finland has no ready formula for national imam training programmes, though it could look to the Netherlands, which launched government-funded imam training initiatives five years ago to promote the integration of its Muslim citizens.
Rimke van der Veer, who heads such training in the Netherlands, said Dutch imams often act as part social worker, which requires deep knowledge of the local culture.
State and religion
According to Mohamed El-Fatatry, founder of the popular Muslim online community Muxlim, a fresh look is needed on religious leadership in general.
“We should redefine what an imam does, and the role of this religious institution in today’s world,” says El-Fatatry, who moved to Finland in 2004 from the United Arab Emirates. “People today have a strong individual identity and won’t just accept information that’s handed down.”