CAIRO - The northern German city of Hamburg has recognized Muslim religious holidays, in a major achievement for the sizable community in the European country, Deutche Welle reported.
This is "a historic day for Hamburg, but also for Germany," Zekeriya Altug, chairman of the Hamburg association of the Turkish-Islamic association DITIB, said.
DITIB and two other Muslim groups signed agreement with Hamburg authorities to recognize Muslim holidays.
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Under the deal, authorities will recognize `Eid Al-Fitr, `Eid Al-Adha, and the Day of Ashura as official holidays.
"With the signing of these agreements, we are strengthening the societal foundation of our city, mayor Olaf Scholz said.
We are all Hamburg," he said, describing the agreement as a milestone.
Among signatories are also the council of Islamic communities (Shura) and the Federation of Islamic Cultural Centers (VIKZ).
The agreement still awaits final approval by Hamburg's civic parliament, in which Scholz's center-left Social Democrats hold a majority.
The opposition Christian Democrats and Greens have already welcomed the accord.
Hamburg is home to 150,000 Muslims.
Germany has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.
Muslims say the agreement will change the life of the sizable minority.
With it, Hamburg has today set a precedent for the future of our country, Altug said.
He said prior to the agreement, it was up to employers to decide whether to grant Muslims religious days off.
Many Muslim employees didn't dare ask for days off on those days for fear of being seen badly, Altug said.
Now they will be able to say: it's my holiday, it's governed by law.
Under the signed agreement, Muslims will also help improve religious tuition in Hamburg schools.
Hamburg's protestant church has traditionally overseen religious studies lessons in the city-state.
That makes an enormous difference.
Germany is Europe's second-biggest Muslim population after France, and Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.
Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.Germany's daily Der Spiegel had warned that the European country is becoming intolerant towards its Muslim minority.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net