Germans Debate Muslim Public Holidays
“We have a Judeo-Christian religious character, not an Islamic one.”
- “Germany’s Christian heritage is not negotiable. The introduction of Muslim holidays is out of the question for us.” — Alexander Dobrindt, a senior member of the CSU party.
- “We have a Judeo-Christian religious character, not an Islamic one. Therefore, I do not understand why we are even having this debate. Instead, we should discuss something else: When will Christians in all Islamic countries have the same religious freedom as Muslims have here?” — Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior member of the CDU party.
- “CDU wants Muslim holiday. This is the difference: AfD says NO! NO! NO!” — Beatrix von Storch, Deputy Chair of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD).
An off-the-cuff proposal by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière to introduce Muslim public holidays has sparked another furious debate over the role of Islam in Germany.
Speaking at a campaign rally on October 9 for state elections in Lower Saxony, de Maizière, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said that federal states with large Muslim populations should be allowed to celebrate Muslim public holidays:
“I am prepared to discuss the possibility of introducing Islamic holidays. In areas where a lot of Catholics live, we celebrate All Saint’s Day, and in areas where not a lot of Catholics live we don’t celebrate All Saint’s Day. So why can’t we think about Islamic holidays as well?”
|A proposal by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière to introduce Muslim public holidays has sparked another furious debate over the role of Islam in Germany. Pictured: De Maizière (right) with Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s s Al Azhar mosque, on May 26, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Steffi Loos/Getty Images)|
De Maizière’s statement, apparently aimed at enticing Muslim voters, prompted a furious backlash from his own party and political allies, who are still reeling from the CDU’s poor results in the general election on September 24. Although Merkel won a fourth term in office, the CDU, together with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), suffered its worst electoral result in more than half a century.
Party insiders blame the election debacle on Merkel, who they say has moved the CDU too far away from its conservative roots, especially on immigration. More than a million traditional CDU/CSU voters defected to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), an upstart party that harnessed widespread anger over Merkel’s decision to allow into the country more than a million mostly Muslim migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Germany’s Muslim population surpassed six million in 2016 for the first time ever. Germany now vies with France for the highest Muslim population in Western Europe.
The increase in Germany’s Muslim population is being fueled by mass migration. An estimated 300,000 migrants arrived in Germany in 2016, in addition to the more than one million who arrived in 2015. At least 80% (or 800,000 in 2015 and 240,000 in 2016) of the newcomers were Muslim, according to the Central Council of Muslims in Germany.
In addition to the newcomers, the rate of population increase of the Muslim community already living in Germany is around 1.6% per year (or 77,000) according to data extrapolated from a Pew Research Center study on the growth of the Muslim population in Europe.
Based on Pew projections before the current migration crisis, the Muslim population of Germany was to have reached an estimated 5,145,000 by the end of 2015.
Adding the 800,000 Muslim migrants who arrived in Germany in 2015, and the 240,000 who arrived in 2016, combined with the 77,000 natural increase, the Muslim population of Germany jumped by 1,117,000, to reach an estimated 6,262,000 by the end of 2016. This amounts to approximately 7.5% of Germany’s overall population of 82 million.
“Germany’s Christian heritage is not negotiable,” said Alexander Dobrindt, a senior member of the CSU. “The introduction of Muslim holidays is out of the question for us.”
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Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow Soeren Kern on Twitter and Facebook