Sweden to investigate merits of state-funded imam education

Swedish FlagStockholm - The Swedish government Thursday commissioned an investigation into the merits of state-funded education for imams.

"Muslim organizations in Sweden have approached the government and asked for help with imam education," Minister for Higher Education and Research Lars Leijonborg said.

Leijonborg said the imams could play a key role in integration, noting that Muslims often approached religious leaders on matters related to Swedish society.

The minister said that many imams are from other countries and only stay a short time in Sweden, so they could perhaps be offered language training and knowledge about Sweden and Swedish society.

Some of the foreign imams may also "contribute to a radicalization of Islam," he said.

Political science professor Erik Amna of Orebro University was commissioned to study the needs. He would also look into if the training should be handled at university level or by other educational institutions and would be similar to that conducted by theological faculties.

Amna, who was to present his findings by June 2009, said the task was "very exciting," adding it was key to study "how we can learn to solve conflicts peacefully."

Sweden has some 100,000 registered Muslims with various Muslim associations and organizations but estimates suggest there are some 400,000 in the country of 9.1 million. (dpa)