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German interior minister proposes Muslim holidays be put on regional calendars

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has suggested that Germany introduce Muslim public holidays in its official regional calendars, upsetting fellow conservative members of the government.

There are millions of Muslims concentrated in several regions of Germany.

Speaking on the campaign trail ahead of an election in the northern state of Lower Saxony, de Maiziere, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), said he was open to having Muslim public holidays being put on the calendars of those regions of Germany where there were large numbers of Muslims.

He said All Saints’ Day was only a public holiday in Germany’s Catholic regions. “In places where there are many Muslims, why can’t we think about introducing a Muslim public holiday?” he asked.

His proposal prompted strong reactions from fellow conservatives.

Senior CDU member Wolfgang Bosbach told the newspaper Bild that everyone in Germany could celebrate whatever religious festivals they wanted but added, “Whether the state should also protect non-Christian holidays with legal regulation in the future is a different issue entirely.”

Alexander Dobrindt, a senior figure in the Christian Social Union (CSU) — the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s CDU — told the same newspaper that Germany’s Christian heritage was non-negotiable.

“We won’t consider introducing Muslim public holidays in Germany,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said de Maiziere remained of the view that Germany’s public holidays were of a Christian nature “and don’t have any other roots.” However, she said the northern city states of Hamburg and Bremen and other states had signed agreements with some Muslim organizations so that Muslim pupils could have such time off school and workers could take holidays for festivals important to Islam, seeming to suggest that there would be nothing wrong with the introduction of holidays on official local calendars.

The German constitution states that Germany’s individual states decide on religious public holidays so the federal interior minister has no influence on whether there should be Muslim public holidays, the spokeswoman added.

Meanwhile, the CDU is set to start three-way coalition talks with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Green Paert next week.

The conservatives won a September election but suffered their worst result since 1949 as they lost some support to the far-right.

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