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  • October 2013: Conflict about the construction of a mosque in Leipzig

People are speaking out against the proposed construction of an Ahmadiyya mosque in the Gohlis district of Leipzig. Until now, members of the Ahmadiyya community would assemble in a private apartment to pray. The main arguments put forward by the project’s opponents are of the type: “They are Muslims, they commit crimes of honour, killings in the name of their religion, we don’t have to offer them a mosque”. Others believe that this project will increase traffic, noise...or fear trouble and clashes with the neighbours. The extreme-right NPD party spotted an opportunity here and in early November 2013 called for a “demonstration against Islamisation and the excessive presence of foreigners”. Social networks (Facebook...) witnessed an outbreak of anti-Islamic verbal aggression, while online petitions against the construction have already collected several thousand signatures.

For more information, see Leipziger Volkszeitung.

  • June 2013: For the first time in Germany, a Muslim organisation is recognised as a public law corporation

In June 2013, a Muslim association - the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - was recognised for the first time as a public law corporation in the Land of Hessen. This decision was met with some reserve by other Muslim organisations or federations, most of which did not recognise the Ahmadis - a Muslim reformist movement founded in India at the end of the nineteenth century - as Muslims.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community should thus be able to benefit from many privileges in the same way as Christian churches, the Jewish community, Jehovah’s Witnesses etc., who already benefit from such status. If it is not considering imposing a tax, as it would now be entitled to do, it would, however, like to open Muslim cemeteries, particularly in Hamburg where it is well established. The Ahmadiyya community has about 35,000 members in Germany and manages around 30 mosques throughout the country. It also provides courses in Islamic religion at primary schools in the Land of Hessen.

For further information, see Die Zeit and Der Spiegel.

  • 28 March 2013: Muslims in Germany request two public holidays for Muslim festivals

One of the Muslim associations in Germany, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland) has asked the federal government to write into law two public holidays in the religious calendar: one day during the period of Ramadan and one for Eid al-Fitr, the feast of the sacrifice, which closes the month of fasting. This measure would be not imposed automatically on all citizens, but would allow Muslims to take time off work during their religious festivals. Germany has approximately four million Muslims. For them, this decision would allow them to be better integrated and tolerated in German society.

For the moment, only the City-State of Hamburg, governed by the SPD, has concluded an agreement with Muslims allowing them to be able to take three days’ holiday (see Current Debates - Autumn 2012). The Conservative parties of the CDU and CSU are against this project, stating that Germany has no Islamic tradition or culture and that its calendar is based on a Western Christian tradition, not to mention that the measure would be too costly to fund. For the SPD, on the other hand, recognising Jewish and Muslim festivals would be a good thing, because people from these faiths form an integral part of society.

For further information, see Le Figaro and Die Welt.

  • February 2013: Catholic hospitals in Cologne to look after rape victims and allow them the morning-after pill

Last January, a controversy erupted in Germany when two Catholic clinics in Cologne refused to take care of a rape victim requesting the morning-after pill (Die Welt). Health Minister, Barbara Steffens, qualified this case as “scandalous” and a meeting was convened to clarify the situation in Rhineland-Palatinate. The Regional Health Minister, Alexander Schweitzer, and the Union of Catholic Hospitals therefore met on 14 February in the presence of the Bishop of Mainz, Karl Lehmann. The same day, a communiqué was issued, stating that victims of rape had always been welcomed by Catholic hospitals and that treatment “preventing conception without abortifacient effect” could be prescribed. Not only would rape victims benefit from psychological support, but they would also be provided with the necessary information on emergency contraception. Training taking into account the medical, ethical and legal aspects will be offered to hospital personnel, to enable them to assess the situation in a responsible manner. The patient’s final decision will have to be respected.

  • January 2013: The debate on circumcision in Germany

A law setting out the legal framework for ritual circumcision was adopted on 20 December 2012. It was created in order to put an end to several months’ controversy and legal uncertainty created by the ban on this practice for religious purposes pronounced by the Cologne High Court in June 2012. The case dated back to 2010, brought about by a circumcision performed on a young four year-old Tunisian who had to be sent to A&E due to complications that arose two days after his operation. Prosecutors then filed a complaint against the doctor with the Cologne District Court. The latter ruled that the operation respected the “welfare of the child”. The prosecutor then appealed to the High Court, which acquitted the doctor due to the lack of a clear legal situation, while stating at the same time that circumcision represented “a wound to the body liable to give rise to criminal proceedings” and an infringement of “a child’s right to respect for his/her physical integrity”. The case provoked strong outcry in Germany among Muslims and Jews, who considered that there had been a violation of freedom of conscience.

For information, see the article in Die Zeit and Die Süddeutsche Zeitung.

D 4 November 2013    ASylvie Toscer-Angot

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