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Critics say that such efforts to create a “European Islam” are naïve and misguided, and will serve only to contribute to the “mainstreaming” of a religious and political ideology that is intrinsically opposed to all aspects of the European way of life.

The Catholic University of Leuven, the oldest university in Belgium and one that has been a major contributor to the development of Roman Catholic theology for more than 500 years, will offer a degree in Islamic theology beginning in 2014.

The decision by KU Leuven, as the university is commonly known, to focus on Islam follows similar moves by other leading universities in Europe and reflects the growing influence of Islam on the continent.

Castle Arenberg, part of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. The university will offer a degree in Islamic theology beginning in 2014. (Image credit: Juhanson/Wikimedia Commons)

The proliferation of degree programs in Islamic theology is being justified by European governments — which are subsidizing the teaching of Islam in European universities with taxpayer money — as a way to “professionalize” the training of Muslim imams, or religious teachers, many of whom do not even speak the language of their European host countries.

Some European governments believe that by controlling the religious education of imams, they can promote the establishment of a “European Islam,” one that combines Islamic principles and duties with European values and traditions such as the rule of law, democracy, human rights and gender equality.

But critics say such efforts to create a “European Islam” are naïve and misguided, and will serve only to contribute to the “mainstreaming” of a religious and political ideology that is intrinsically opposed to all aspects of the European way of life.

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