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Hamburg signs historic deal with Muslims

Published: 15 Aug 2012 08:52 GMT+02:00

"Something that should be taken for granted has gained a lot of attention," Hamburg's centre-left mayor Olaf Scholz said as he presented the new agreement on Tuesday. It is the first ever deal between a German state and its Muslim community, Scholz said - "a signal that we're ready and willing to cooperate."

The 11-page agreement, which still has to be approved by the city parliament, is meant to regulate religious freedoms, school lessons, burial rituals, and recognition of Germany's constitution, the taz newspaper reported.

The deal, which has been in negotiations since 2007, was signed by the council of Islamic communities (Schura), the Turkish-Islamic Union (Ditib), the association of Islamic cultural centres (VIKZ), as well as the city's Alevi community.

These community groups, representing the Hamburg's 120,000 Muslims, have agreed to recognize the "basic values of constitutional order," to reject "violence and discrimination based on origin, sexual orientation, and faith" and "religious and political viewpoints," and to recognize "equality between genders."

In exchange, Hamburg city authorities will declare Eid al-Adha ("Festival of Sacrifice"), Eid ul-Fitr (the end of Ramadan), and the Day of Ashura ("Day of Mourning"), officially recognised holidays.

Muslim and Alevi workers will be allowed to take these days off, and their children will be allowed to stay out of school if they wish - under the same conditions that Christians can take Church holidays such as the Day of Repentance off. This means they have the right to take the day off - either taking it as holiday or in return for another working day.

The deal also promises Islamic communities more say in how religious lessons in school are formed.

Similar deals were signed with the city's Protestant and Catholic churches in 2005, and with the Jewish community in 2007.

Schura official Daniel Abdin described the agreement as "an important step towards the institutional recognition of Islam in Germany," while Aziz Aslandemir of the Alevi community organization said, "We hope that this contract will be seen as a spark for other German states."

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