Hundreds of people, including high-profile guests from German politics, economy and other sectors of German society, came together in Berlin on Monday to welcome the first 65 Muslim fellows, the majority of whom were women who have been awarded scholarships by the Avicenna Studienwerk scheme.
Avicenna Studienwerk is considered the first organization in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research that is solely for Muslim students. It focuses on supporting talented, motivated and socially committed Muslim students in all disciplines through scholarships.
“It is a first in German history, as for the first time 65 young Muslims were awarded scholarships and this is expected to rise to 500 people in the years to come,” Bülent Uçar, chairman of Avicenna Studienwerk, said in comment to Today's Zaman on the first round of the Muslim scholarship program.
Backed by the German federal government, the students will receive at least 670 euros a month and an additional study grant of 300 euros. Students pursuing doctoral degrees will receive 1,150 euros per month.
Expressing his excitement for Avicenna Studienwerk filling the gap needed for scholarship programs in the German Muslim community, Uçar underlined that it was important that the project “gives support to young academics and paves a clear way for them.” He added that the opportunity to contribute to the education of young people is an investment in active social participation, which is a powerful instrument for developing society.
The program signals a growing acceptance that Muslims make up more than 3 million of Germany's population and that they should not be dismissed but instead incorporated into a cultural and social dialogue. Wolfgang Rohe, executive director of the Mercator Foundation, one of the main financial supporters of Avicenna Studienwerk, said fostering educational opportunities for people from migrant backgrounds in Germany is vital and should be the starting point for this issue.
“We were aware that many migrants [in Germany] are from religious backgrounds and so we had to deal with this religious topic … and then we decided to invest in this Avicenna project to provide educational opportunities for migrants,” Rohe said in a talk with Today's Zaman.
Immigrants in Germany, particularly ones from an Islamic background, have become one of the topics of mainstream public and political discussions since it became clear that migrants who were once guest workers were staying in Germany. A substantial part of the population has parents who were migrants but are full German citizens as they were born and raised in the country.
“We aim for more integration through education, through studying and by incorporating people into academic discourse,” Rohe said, adding that modern societies like that of Germany rely on education and that being well educated is important to integration. “Integration depends on participation and socialization in all of [German] culture.”
Slightly overwhelmed by the new scholarship opportunities the Avicenna Studienwerk program provides, Rümeysa Yıldız, 28, a Ph.D. candidate in pedagogy at the Karlsruher Institut for Technology, highlighted the importance of the project. She said it will have a great impact on young Muslims and help them to succeed. “Successful and bright Muslims are needed in each area of society. The voice of Muslims in pedagogy is almost non-existent,” Yıldız said. She added that the scholarship will enable her to make a valuable contribution to academia and that it will also have a significantly positive effect on the overall education system in Germany.
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