Germany debates Muslim school holiday

A proposal by Germany’s Turkish Community to have schools observe one Muslim holiday annually has set off a fierce debate in Germany. Most are opposed, though some say it would promote tolerance. German politicians and religious organizations broadly shot down a proposal by Germany’s Turkish Community (TGD) for schools to close one day out of the year to observe a Muslim holiday.

The head of the TGD, Kenan Kolat prompted the debate when he suggested that the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, could become a school holiday for all students. “That would be a sign of tolerance,” Kolat said. The Central Council of Jews supported Kolat’s proposal, and suggested that the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur be observed by schools as well.

However, many politicians and church representatives, as well as the Central Council of Muslims, came out against the idea. “I see no reason to turn this day (Eid al-Fitr) into a general school holiday or bank holiday for everybody,” Aiman Mazyek, secretary general of the Central Council of Muslims told German press agency dpa, saying it was good enough that Muslim students were excused from attending school on their religious holidays.

The chairman of Germany’s Protesant Church, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, said that there was a “priority for Christian holidays in the culture of our country” based on millennia of Christian influence in Germany.