In a move toward religious toleration which would not be seen in a Muslim-majority nation, the government of Hamburg, Germany has now reached an accord with its Muslim communities giving official standing to their religious holidays and permitting adherents of their beliefs to teach religion in the schools.
According to a story for Der Spiegel, the accord marks the first time that Muslims have been granted such a status in Germany:
The deal, which must still be approved by the city's parliament, is the first of its kind in Germany. It was agreed to by representatives of Hamburg's Muslim and Alevi communities, whose holidays will gain the same status as non-statutory Christian holidays. On these days, people who wish to observe the holiday have the right to either use a vacation day or make it up another time.
For Americans who are used to the right of freedom of religion enumerated in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, the notion of such a state involvement in a fundamentally religious matter may seem strange. Article 4 of the German constitution declares that “the freedom of religion, conscience and the freedom of confessing one's religious or philosophical beliefs are inviolable. Uninfringed religious practice is guaranteed.” However, the German system of state support for recognized religions is a different matter from the recognition of an individual right, since recognition of a religious group as a “public law corporation” gives that group the ability to receive funding through the “church tax” (Kirchensteuer) and to participate in religious education in the schools. The unstructured nature of Germany’s various Islamic communities has made it difficult for them to gain the necessary legal status in the past, but the Hamburg agreement may be a significant step toward broader recognition. As the English-language website TheLocal.de reports, Germany’s Turkish Muslims played a significant role in the agreement:
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Photo of Hamburg skyline