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CDU chastens new Muslim minister for mooting school crucifix ban

DDP/The Local · 26 Apr 2010, 17:20

Published: 26 Apr 2010 17:20 GMT+02:00

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In an interview over the weekend the 38-year-old – who will be the country’s first Muslim state minister – said that public schools should be neutral places without religious symbols, including both crucifixes and Islamic headscarves.

The statements from the conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) member to Focus magazine sparked outrage within her own party.

On Monday morning Integration Commissioner Maria Böhmer rejected any suggestion of such a ban, saying crucifixes were part of the country’s national identity.

By afternoon Lower Saxony State Premier Christian Wulff, who appointed Özkan to his cabinet, declared the discussion was over.

After a “broad debate” in the CDU state parliamentary group, his new minister had accepted that crucifixes are “welcome and wanted” in the state’s schools, he said as a federal and state-level conference on integration began in Berlin.

“She backs this policy and the topic is finished for us,” he said, calling the situation a “misunderstanding.”

Meanwhile at the integration summit Özkan reportedly apologised for the interview, saying she gave it without adequate knowledge of the state party’s policies.

CDU parliamentary group leader David McAllister emphasised that state laws for religious symbols in schools would not be changed.

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“In the eyes of the CDU the cross is a symbol of tolerance, also when applied to other religions,” he said. “The weekend’s irritations and misunderstandings have therefore been dispelled.”

A successful business woman, Özkan joined the CDU in 2004 and quickly rose through the regional ranks of the party to reach the Hamburg city council in 2008.

The debate over religious symbols in schools came as federal and state integration officials planned to gather in Oldenburg on Monday.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:00 April 26, 2010 by michael4096
Don't let 'em beat you down, girl!
18:13 April 26, 2010 by LancashireLad
If crucifixes are allowed so should headscarves. Ban 'em all or keep 'em all. The only ban I would really understand is the full face burqa (apologies if I have the wrong variant). If I speak to someone I like to see their face. I agree with her comments including those of integration but unfortunately she's representing the "Christian" party.
18:15 April 26, 2010 by William Thirteen
18:59 April 26, 2010 by wmm208
if the plan doesnt work, she will just be "reassigned" or "fired" but she gets to keep her car.
20:52 April 26, 2010 by cocovelvet

theeheee !!!.... and the plan really looks like it evaporated nowhere before it actually bear fruits. Anyway, good try gal........ next time consult the elders first.

Pesch gehabt Mrs. özkan.....
20:59 April 26, 2010 by wmm208
I think it was a nice try or effort by the Govt to look "diverse" and help the non believers "obey". She probably gets to keep the car after she is "re-assigned" to a different post.
00:59 April 27, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, I personally blame State Premier Christian Wulff the most. Did he not know that she would create such disharmony?

And as for Ozkan, why take a job if so many people are going to hate you as a result?

It's a wonderful thing to work for improvements. I too can imagine being a leader. However, I certainly wouldn't want to if the majority of society is going to hate me in the process.
08:09 April 27, 2010 by DoubleDTown
"apologised for the interview, saying she gave it without adequate knowledge of the state party¦#39;s policies" Yikes. If she doesn't know her own party's platform on the area of government she's supposed to be in charge of, what else about that field does she not know?
08:13 April 27, 2010 by mexican.wav
Thats a shame, she had a real point there. All the heat on headscarve bans et all must be really offensive to muslims, its all a product of the recent tensions in modern times. To try and broaden the expulsion of religious artifacts in schools should be encouraged. Must be kind of insulting to a muslim pupil if they are staring at a giant cross everyday but then told they have to keep their religion out of school.....
09:09 April 27, 2010 by LancashireLad
DoubleDTown: fair point, but it's probably what she was told or agreed to say
09:46 April 27, 2010 by MaKo
Free the classrooms of crucifixes and headscarves... that seems fair enough.

The idea doesn't seem very CDU/CSU, though. Maybe she should have opted for a party that doesn't start with "C."
10:24 April 27, 2010 by AlexRoss
You couldn't make this one up! A member of a Christian party wanting to ban crosses.

And who said the Germans don't have a sense of humour?
10:58 April 27, 2010 by bruckmann
It takes effort but I'll be both polite and kind about this lady. What a nitwit!

Fact: Germany is a Christian Country.

Fact: Most Germans are Christians.

Fact: The Cross and/or Crucifix are Christian symbols.

Question: Just how is this offensive?

I can only assume the lady was trying to get her name in print thereby enhancing her public image. If this is the case then I guess I'd better revise my view of her. She is a double-nitwit!!
11:12 April 27, 2010 by So36
@bruckman. Before you go around insulting people perhaps you might care to acknowledge that they are STATE public schools. Not Christian ones. You want crosses on the wall? Send your kids to a Catholic school. It's absurd to argue the crucifix is a symbol of tolerance towards other religions. They have no place in public institutions. Period.
11:13 April 27, 2010 by great_warrior
She is beautiful and very....Okay now coming to the point what is problem with the Cross. If Islam truely teaches to respect other religions then no Muslim student will be offended by cross. Just if they want to show that Muslims are invading schools then it makes point to prove it.
11:31 April 27, 2010 by bruckmann
@So36. Very touchy. I'm merely stating facts. As it happens, I'm neither German nor Christian.

Pity you lack both brains and tolerance.
11:34 April 27, 2010 by So36
You're the one tossing around insults. Your facts happen to be irrelevant to the point you're trying to make. Try again.
11:39 April 27, 2010 by bruckmann
@So36. Facts are only irrelevant when it is preferable they do not exist. They do however remain facts..

My point, which you so obviously missed, has little to nothing to do with the subject matter of this lady's efforts - merely that it was so likely to fail she would have been better served trying to push water uphill.
11:40 April 27, 2010 by LancashireLad
@bruckmann I'm right behind S036 on this one.

No religious symbol has a place in a STATE school. It is not a school's job to indoctrinate children into any religion. If Germans want their children to be educated in the christian religion then they should send them to a catholic school or to whatever the German equivalent of a Sunday school is.

She was quite right to propose the banning of *all* religious symbols.

Because Germany is a secular state, your first stated fact is incorrect.

Since childhood I have maintained that religion causes more problems than it solves, this is why I am a committed humanist.
11:48 April 27, 2010 by bruckmann
@LancashireLad: "Christianity is the largest religion in Germany, with 52.116 million adherents (63%) in 2007." [source wiki.org]
11:57 April 27, 2010 by LancashireLad
The only time a country should be linked with a religion (in my opinion, never) is when that country's government is a religion. Germany's government is in no way controlled by any religion. That is what I mean when I say that Germany is a secular state and not christian. We should have the choice as to how our children are taught (not indoctrinated) about religion and not have it imposed by anyone.
12:21 April 27, 2010 by Edmond Schindler
She was absolutely clear about the separation of religious symbols from schools systems.

It is the only fair decision, everything else is bias toward Christianity, and is religious in nature, excluding all other religions but the "one true religion following Christ", which is a matter of personal opinion, or faith, not fact.

Therefore completely inappropriate in schools that are public in nature. I agree with here completely. Religious teaching and symbols do not belong in public schools period.
13:05 April 27, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Bruckmann --

SO36, LancashireLad and Schindler are all correct. Germany is a secular state. The number of self-professed adherents to christianity is irrelevant. If Germany were ever to become a christian theocracy like the U.S., you might have a valid point. Until then, as Schindler says, "religious teaching and symbols do not belong in public schools." If parents want that kind of indoctrination for their children, they can send them to parochial schools.

Try, just try, to put yourself in the position of a child who does not share a belief in christianity and who is surrounded by christian symbols and subjected to religious teaching (and presumably prayer). How does that child react to the peer pressure to conform even though conforming is contrary to his or her beliefs? What if the kid is Jewish, or Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist? Or, god forbid, atheist? Why should any kid be subjected to that kind of pressure at public expense?
14:45 April 27, 2010 by Hebbellover
@bruckmann you are 100% correct! I am a Christian, and Germany is and will always be Christian no matter how much you secularists think otherwise. Besides, with all your global warming and month long holidays, kindergeld you still won't have children. We do, hence you will be extinct. Have a nice day. 8-)
15:03 April 27, 2010 by Prufrock2010
What does climate change have to do with the "christian" habit of breeding like cockroaches in a world that is already overpopulated by half?
15:47 April 27, 2010 by LancashireLad
Indeed, please explain exactly what you are bladdering on about wrt. "global warming", ...."month long holidays???". and ... "kindergeld???" Am I to take it from this that you christians don't get kindergeld and are not affected by global warming??

Utter tosh.
15:57 April 27, 2010 by martell
Germany is not a christian country but one with a humanist background and thus a secular constitution. Church and state are supposed to be separate, which still never has worked out so far, due to a strong influence of the catholic church on German politicians, which in fact is illegal.

Keeping an eye on the number of citizens never even having joined or dropping out of the "official" (i.e. state-pampered) churches, it is obvious that there is not a christian majority in Germany anymore. The average German is non-religious or not a member of an organized church.

Religion does not belong in public buildings like courts or schools unless it is a religious private school. This has been certified by Germany's highest court already years ago. So there should not even be the need to discuss something which should not be there, legally.

Neither muslim nor christian symbols LEGALLY belong in public schools, so one has to agree with Ozkan concerning this point.
21:11 April 27, 2010 by jamesvik
Instead of bringing Muslims into the country maybe Germany should work on promoting the growth of their own people and the survival of their culture.
02:14 April 28, 2010 by wmm208
jamesvik - Too late for this nationalist idea. Germans are a dying breed. The statistics are mathematically irreversible. Zero sum game. Even if you had a revloution or war, you woud suffer losses of bodies. These bodies would be crucial for reproduction and it just wont work. Hang in there...
16:28 April 28, 2010 by spongepaddy
I especially love the part where a cross is "a symbol of tolerance ". Keep in mind that the man who make it famous was actually brutalised and murdered while nailed to one. And it's been used as an excuse for centuries of crime and brutality ever since.

A symbol of tolerance? Yeah right, and so's my arse.
16:31 April 28, 2010 by whatzup
How ironic. The germans are now being hoisted on their own petards and some of them don't like it very much. If you don't like the objections to the crucifixes on your walls you should have thought about welcoming the folks who object to those crucifixes long before this.
20:25 April 28, 2010 by wmm208
1999: You can have your cake and eat it too....

2010: You reap what you sow....
16:42 April 30, 2010 by ErnestPayne
Good for her. Remember what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I wonder how the Belgians will react to this suggestion.
20:28 May 2, 2010 by AllieOop
Pity she caved -- because she was right to question the use of a religious symbol in state institutions. There needs to be a clear separation of church and state. I personally find it unacceptable that a political party should even call itself Christian, especially since they're anything but. And the cross/crucifix as a "symbol of tolerance"?! Who do they think they're kidding?
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