CAIRO - In the first such agreement in Germany, authorities in the northern city of Hamburg have reached a deal with Muslim groups to recognize Islamic holidays and religion lessons at schools.
"Something that should be taken for granted has gained a lot of attention," Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz said, The Local reported Wednesday, August 15.
A deal was signed Tuesday between Hamburg authorities and Muslim groups to regulate religious freedoms of the sizable minority.
Under the agreement, Islamic holidays -- `Eid Al-Fitr, `Eid Al-Adha, and the Day of Ashura -- will be officially recognized in the northern city.
Muslims will be allowed to take these days off and children will be allowed to stay out of school.
Similar agreements exist with Christian and Jewish communities in the German city.
The 11-page deal also gives Hamburg Muslims more say in how religious lessons in schools are formed.
In exchange, Muslim groups have agreed to recognize the "basic values of constitutional order," to reject "violence and discrimination based on origin, sexual orientation, and faith" and "religious and political viewpoints," and to recognize "equality between genders."
Scholz said the deal is the first between a German state and its Muslim community, a signal that we're ready and willing to cooperate."
The deal, which has been in negotiations since 2007, was signed by the council of Islamic communities (Schura), the Turkish-Islamic Union (Ditib), the association of Islamic cultural centers (VIKZ) and the city's Alevi community.
The deal still has to be approved by the city parliament.
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.
The deal has won plaudits as a step toward official recognition of Islam in Germany.
The agreement is "an important step towards the institutional recognition of Islam in Germany, said Schura official Daniel Abdin.
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."We hope that this contract will be seen as a spark for other German states," said Aziz Aslandemir of the Alevi community organization.