Hamburg has become Germany’s first city to recognize Islamic
holidays, a move meant to encourage the integration of a religious
minority often vilified by opponents of immigration.
Muslim employees and students will be allowed days off to
celebrate their holidays and Islamic classes will be allowed in
state schools, authorities and Islamic groups said after
negotiations lasting five years, news agency Reuters reported.
“We hope that the introduction of Muslim religious classes in the
northern city-state will be a signal for the other fifteen German
states,” Reuters quoted Daniel Abdin from Hamburg’s council of Islamic
communities as saying.
“This agreement is an important step
towards recognition of Islam in the country", he added.
The agreement will come into force next year, the first of this
kind in a country home to some 4 million Muslims, about half of
whom have German citizenship.
The total population is around 82 million in Germany where
religious and ethnic tolerance is a sensitive issue.
Federal conservative lawmaker Volker Kauder, a close ally of
Chancellor Angela Merkel, said earlier this year that Islam was
not part of Germany's tradition and identity.
A court in Cologne banned circumcision on young boys in July,
sparking criticisms from the Muslim and Jewish communities.
Muslim groups in Hamburg, representing some 150,000 Muslims, said
the agreement was a historic sign of acceptance.
“Muslims consider Hamburg their home,” Reuters quoted Zekeriya Altug, from
Hamburg’s Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion as