The multicultural (and hence multireligious) society, as it has developed also in the Federal Republic of Germany since the 1950s at the latest, requires a fundamental methodological turn within the humanities. Especially the Islam-related disciplines in Germany are urged to broaden their horizon that has traditionally been dominated by historical-comparative and philological approaches. More complex Social Science and Culturul Studies methodologies are required to be applied here in order to (be able to) take account of changed societal realities by means of multifaceted research. The Chair of Muslim Cultural & Religious History at the University of Erfurt meets these requirements programmatically with its foci in teaching and research.
Instead of, as hitherto, being almost exclusively concerned with normative tradition and classical literature - which has often led to the misconception that there would be only one "Islamic world" - it is the social history of various Muslim cultures that is mainly investigated in Erfurt. This includes, on the one side, carving out the differences between these Muslim societies and, on the other side, assessing the significance and the function of religion for various social groups within these societies. Understanding these differences is necessary in order to identify and evaluate the various forms of Muslim expression and organisation that have also been arising during the last decades in Western Europe.
The outcome of this is another research emphasis that complies with the programme of the University of Erfurt: The Chair of Muslim Cultural & Religious History focusses, with a pragmatic intention, on processes of negotiation and reciprocal perceptions between Muslim minority and non-Muslim majority groups in Europe.
The Chair of Muslim Cultural & Religious History at the University of Erfurt puts great emphasis on interdisciplinarity and internationality. This is, on the one hand, reflected in its integration into the university's Department of Religious Studies that imparts broad knowledge of the European religious landscape. On the other hand, the Chair cooperates with other departments, such as Political Science, History, Communication Studies or Theology, and expresses shared interests within the framework of the compulsory “Studium Fundamentale”. Moreover, the programme allows for optional semesters, field excursions and internships abroad.
Cultural Studies and Social Sciences in general and Religious Studies in particular need to extend and improve their practical orientation in order to make their expertise fruitful and applicable in politics, commerce and society. Experts with well-founded knowledge of religious minority groups in Europe are already lacking and sought after. It is, therefore, the Chair's declared aim to provide this sort of cultural competences at the undergraduate level (B.A. programme) that will enable the graduate to play a vital part in different areas of society, such as economy, politics, education or the media, and to fulfill not an preclusive, but an integrative function within them.
It is also possible to continue studying after graduation and complete a two-year M.A. programme in Islamic Studies. Moreover, Ph.D. cadidates are also welcome at the University of Erfurt to specialise in Islamic studies – even when they come from other disciplines.
In addition to the Chair's courses with their foci, courses in oriental languages (Arabic, Turkish, Urdu) are offered at the University of Erfurt. The knowledge of an oriental language is a necessary requisite to deal thoroughly with Islamic cultures. Hence, it is highly recommended for undergraduates and compulsory for graduates to learn at least one relevant language.