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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Muslim public holiday in Germany being considered by German Interior Minister

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When Thomas de Maizière chatted in Wolfenbüttel on Monday evening, he did not know that he was stirring  a heated debate. It belongs to the essence of the 63-year-old, sometimes to let his thoughts to hang, sometimes a little chat, without larger plan behind it. But because he is the Federal Minister of the Interior, even the smallest talk can become a big number.

At the invitation of the election campaigning CDU party colleagues De Maizière drove to Lower Saxony. On Sunday is Regional Elections and it could be quite close. In the venue called Komm, it was about refugee policy, about integration and the so-called "defining culture". As Minister of the Interior, he feels "responsible for the social context", he said, according to a report from the portal regionalwolfsburg.de, and said: "Now is the question, what is it, in the traditional sense of the word, the rubber band binding society, and what to do so that it does not tear? "

Thomas de Maizière now experiences how difficult this rubber band when it is already under tension. In the course of the evening, he also commented on German holidays and said, ""I'm ready to talk about whether we could introduce a Muslim holiday. Maybe one might like to do this. There are also regions where there is All Saints' Day, elsewhere not. Where there are many Catholics, there is the Feast of All Saints, where there are few, there is no All Saints. Where there are many Muslims; why cannot you think about a Muslim holiday?

De Maizière then became louder and emphasized: "But our holidays are a Christian one, and that should remain so. Whitsun, Easter, Christmas."

What remained of it in a country in which even the Greens are currently discussing the term "Heimat"? That the Interior Minister thinks about introducing Muslim holidays in Germany. (His general additional comment is less important.)  This leads to considerable excitement, especially in his party CDU and his Bavarian sister CSU.  They really wanted to close "the right flank", following the modest results at the German Parliamentary election three weeks ago. And this obviously excludes the inclusion of Muslim fasting or the Feast of Sacrifice (Eid) as a holiday in the German calendar.

"Our Christian heritage is not negotiable," said CSU regional group leader, Alexander Dobrindt of the Bild . "To introduce Islamic holidays in Germany is out of the question for us." Party colleagues, Joachim Herrmann, Manfred Weber and Stephan Mayer expressed similar opinions. The CSU hace not been so united for a long time. So as not to leave the AfD any more space, the party shortened De Maizier's statement to the maximum and poured ridicule on it. "De Maiziere for Muslim holiday!" states an AfD poster on the Internet and to this: "We propose February 30th !

De Maiziere also received criticism from his CDU . Lower Saxony's election campaigner Bernd Althusmann was not very pleased with the statement, he was likely to fear losing electoral votes of his conservative clientele. "Holidays have a long tradition in Germany, and I see no need to change these structures," said Regional Head. Interior expert, Wolfang Bosbach explained that Germany had a Christian-Jewish religious character, and not an Islamic one. The SPD chairman Martin Schulz has already stated: "I have noted above all the ways in which Mr De Maizière is immediately kicked by his own ranks."

De Maizière: Holidays marked by Christianity

Thomas de Maizière is obviously uncomfortable with the hustle and bustle of the game. It was not, after all, a fundamental consideration or political initiative, but rather was expressed in the small Wolfenbütteler Saal. On Saturday, the German Ministry of the Interior told the Süddeutsche Zeitung : "Minister De Maizière has made it clear that our holidays are shaped by Christianity and that this should remain so." Although he was ready to talk about individual Muslim holidays in certain regions, he said, "but in principle, he maintains that our holiday culture has precisely Christian and no other roots."

It also points out that the German constitution guarantees freedom of religious exercise. This also means that people can celebrate their religious festivals. The city states of Hamburg and Bremen have therefore concluded agreements with Muslim associations, according to which Muslim pupils can be exempted from high school on Islamic holidays and can take leave of their employees. In fact, other states would also proceed in this way.

But the impression remains that the Union is currently not prepared for a differentiated discussion about Muslim holidays in Germany. Especially not the CSU. The shock of the rise of the right-wing populists from the AfD has hit deeply, they would prefer for such topics not to be raised. Especially when they come from their own ranks.

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Call for female deacons and married priests from progressive episcopal supporter of Pope Francis

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Bishop Paul Iby emerges as a strong supporter of the incumbent Pope and the path he has set the church. "Francis had become my Pope," writes the 82-year-old bishop in his now-published book "Trust in God and Life." In Eisenstadt 1999, Iby had launched a dialogue initiative with reformists urging reform and received harsh criticism for this. However, the confirmation had come with Francis in 2013 that "the Church must follow this path of dialogue with the people" Pope Francis had become my Pope. Seen like this, I had become a bishop too early.



According to the Austrian bishop, the topic of women was also important. In Rome, he had committed himself to the consecration of female deacons. He is still convinced of the correctness of this request. "When the Church really studies the question of female ordination and is intensely occupied with it, this time will come. Similar to the abolition of the obligation celibacy. "

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Bishops take on political right-wing

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Bishops against populists throughout the world

The AfD in Germany, the FPÖ in Austria, Trump in the USA: Populism seems to be gaining ground worldwide. This is challenged by the church. For in fact, it depends on the separation from the state. But more and more bishops are departing from this principle – and are making criticism

The state and the church are strictly separated in democratic countries in the best case. But sometimes the spiritual power raises its voice in the political debate. In the past few months, this has been the case several times around the world, supported by the growth of populist forces. The most recent example comes from Austria, where church representatives found warning words before the upcoming national election. "The aggravation in the words and the gestures hurts me," said the newly-appointed Innsbruck Bishop Hermann Glettler at the beginning of the month.

Fear of "real harm" for democracy

Above all the style of the current election campaign excited Glettler's displeasure. Offensive statements by the party leaders about each other led to discussions all over the country. A scandal was even associated with the Social Democratic SPÖ, which had specially engaged a specialist for "dirty election campaigning". The Austrian Caritas , too , had a serious warning: "If this continues, I am afraid of real harm to our democracy," said President Michael Landau a few days ago. At the same time, he insisted on "basic principles such as cohesion, respect, honesty and a minimum of decency".
According to the recent survey, three quarters of the population in Austria believe in the Catholic faith. Therefore, objections by church representatives have weight from the outset. However, objections such as these are nevertheless remarkable and owed to the exceptional political situation of the country: the election procedure of the new Federal President, Alexander Van der Bellen, who took office at the beginning of the year, lasted seven months. Unprecedented antics and mishaps in the course of this period were detrimental to the democratic discourse, at least to the extent that they were playing into the hands of the right-wing populist, FPÖ.

One week after the Austrians, the Czechs are also called upon to elect a new parliament. There, too, the bishops are currently concerned about political culture. In a statement, the bishops' conference called on the citizens of the country to participate in the election earlier this week, not following "cheap promises of rapid change". Rather, the electorate should prefer decency. This would "not be replaced in the political scene by arrogance and vulgarity".

The populism warning of the Czech bishops can be understood as a wink in the direction of the favourite, Andrej Babis. An investigation into the embezzlement of EU subsidies has just been initiated against the billionaire. His "Political Movement ANO 2011" is currently the second strongest force in parliament and according to current polls would clearly win the upcoming election. However, observers see in the party a populist protest movement without any substantive policies.
French bishops against the Front National

But just as populists were ideologically more clearly positioned in recent months, the Church interfered in political debates. Even in France, where laicism as a republican achievement is otherwise respected from all sides, many bishops broke a promise in the past presidential election. For, indeed, the chief shepherds were anxious to keep away from every conception of partisanship; especially after the departure of the French Catholic candidate, Francois Fillon . Just a week before the election day in May, two bishops expressed their opposition to the right-wing candidate, Marine Le Pen . The populist was still considered a favourite in the polls, but ultimately fell sharply against the independent, Emmanuel Macron,

For quite other reasons than their French brothers in office, the Polish bishops have also recently been subjected to political criticism. In the most Catholic state of Europe, the church has traditionally been on the side of the government since the turn of the century ; also because political opposition still generates scepticism in the young democracy. But the majority government of the national conservative party, PiS, which has been in power for two years, has put the traditional tolerance of the bishops to the test.

When the new government began to remove power the constitutional court of the country at the end of 2015, the church remained calm. Later the Episcopal Conference called for a pacification of the embittered debate. The shepherds, on the other hand, did not comment on the threatened dismantling of the rule of law. However, one year later, when the conflict between the government and the opposition had become even sharper, their demand became clearer: both sides would have to stop talking in slogans and talk with each other.

Polish bishops criticize the government

In September 2017, there was finally clear and clear criticism of the government . The bishops turned against the idea, virulent in government circles, of demanding reparations for the Second World War from Germany. For the bishops, who had made one of the strongest signs of reconciliation after the war, through the reconciliation with their German brothers in office, this was an unacceptable affront against newly won friends.

Populist provocations are currently also the order of the day in the USA and concern the Catholic Church in the country. The relationship of the bishops to the competing parties is ambivalent as in no other democracy as in the United States. While a broad support for Hillary Clinton emerged before the presidential elections last November, the US bishops deliberately withdrew. From their point of view, the Democrat did not only address ethically questionable positions, for example, in matters of life protection. One month before the election day, moreover, complaints were made about Catholics from Clinton's election campaign. In the end, the chief shepherds declared that the issue of life protection was a crucial test for Catholics and indirectly helped Republican Donald Trump.



After the billionaire had won the election with the help of a majority of the Catholic electorate, the bishops began to make progress in abortion. At the same time, it quickly became clear that the Church would have to contradict the Republican in most other questions. Whether migration, the entry ban or the North Korean conflict: on all the decisions which Trump exploits for propaganda, there are criticisms from the bishops. It was only on Wednesday that the Bishop's conference called Trump climate policy a "disappointment".

Marx wants "verbal disarmament" after the German Parliamentary election

The bishops in Austria and the Czech Republic can still hope that they will not lose out after the elections in their respective countries. But it is more likely that the populists will also celebrate their successes there. Thus, despite all warnings from the Church, the entry of the AfD into the recently elected Bundestag was also foreseeable. The German bishops, however, remained on their line to reject populism. In a first statement, the President of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, called for "verbal disarmament" after the election campaign. He especially hoped that he would not have to hear in the future: "the language of hatred and exclusion".

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Muslims want distance put between them and "unbelievers" in cemetries

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A Muslim burial ground will not exist in Oberhaching, at least in the next few years. The main town council committee decided in its latest meeting.

Oberhaching - The town council focused on the harmonious shape of the cemetery in Oberhaching during the 1970s. This is true today and not just for the external form. Tolerance towards other denominations is a self-evident foundation. This also means that there should be no confessional trenches. Also no whole areas from which other believers are excluded. It was precisely this desire that an Islam-confessing family had now expressed to Mayor Stefan Schelle (CSU). The main and financial committees of the Town Council made a clear refusal to this request.

The cemetery of Oberhaching is circular and oriented towards the center as a circle. Each grave field has its own orientation. In one field, urn burial is possible, in the other an anonymous burial, in the third a burial under a tree, as Mayor Schelle clarified to the Münchner Merkur.  The wishes of the mourning relatives for the ritual of burial are, of course, met in Oberhaching. A Muslim funeral with its own rituals (provided that they are compatible with the applicable laws) is just as possible as with any other religion. The deceased, as the Mayor of Schelle knows, are so buried that they look to Mecca on their side. "This is not a problem either. In our graveyard, graves can be freely aligned. "

"Is there a metre specification in the Koran?"

All for the best. The Muslim family, however, claimed a whole burial ground. In this, everything should be aligned in the direction of Mecca. This contradicts the basic concept in Oberhaching with an open structure, as the committee argues. Moreover, according to Schelle, no unbelievers should be buried in the immediate vicinity of this burial ground. "Then it will be difficult."

The family had a Muslim funeral director at the appointment in the mayor's office, who demanded a certain distance from the remaining graves. The mayor had no understanding for this. Schelle asked, "Is the distance to the Jewish fellow-citizen wider than to the Christian or to someone who has left the church? Or is there a metre specification in the Koran? That about 2.80 meters deep must keep a corresponding distance of 2.80 meters? "

Own grave areas for Muslims in Munich and Ottobrunn

The family did not allow itself to be budged from their request and referred to similar arrangements of burial grounds in Munich. Muslims have their own areas at the Wood Cemetery as well as at the West and Southern Cemeteries. For two years there has been a Muslim graveyard in Ottobrunn. There are over 1,200 Muslim believers in the area. The local authority wanted to demonstrate with this gesture, the separate field, that the Muslims belong to it. However, the offer was hardly in demand. According to the local authority, only one grave has been occupied for the past two years.

The Mayor of Oberhachingen understands something different about "belonging" in the community. He considers the demand for their own grave field to be exaggerated: "If only Muslims are buried in a whole district, then we get a problem. Then I have the Buddhists on the cheek tomorrow. And, in the end, it is said, "There is the Catholic part behind, and the evangelical next door." Moreover, the Muslims are not necessarily one among themselves, for example the Shiites with the Sunnis, the Alevites and the Wahabites.

Schelle summarized: "It is not possible to make any claims to graveyards. It is part of the freedom of religion that the other religion is tolerated alongside itself. The Christian must also tolerate that there is a Muslim beside him. "

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