Anger over call for Muslim public holiday

BERLIN – German opposition and government members reacted with anger Wednesday to calls by the Greens party – which serve in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s coalition – for establishing a Muslim holiday in the country.

Bavarian state Premier Edmund Stoiber, a member of the Christian Social Union, slammed the idea as “sending out a totally wrong signal.”

Opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Angela Merkel – who is the daughter of a Protestant pastor, said: “Germany is a country with Christian and Western roots. This identity must be reflected in our holidays.”

The sharp criticism followed calls Tuesday by Greens

Environment Minister Juergen Trittin and deputy head of the Greens in parliament, Hans-Christian Stroebele for a Muslim holiday in reaction to violence in the Netherlands following the killing of Islam-critical film director Theo van Gogh.

“Exactly such a sign is needed given the attacks in Holland,” said Stroebele, who like Trittin hails from the party’s “fundi” left-wing.

Muslim leaders were quoted in Bild newspaper as cheering the proposal.

“It’s a magnificent recommendation!” said Ali Emari, chairman of the Islamic Community in Hamburg. Askar Mahmut, General Secretary of the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association said a Muslim holiday was “long overdue.”

But Schroeder’s Social Democrats (SPD) are markedly cool to the proposal following a failed bid earlier this month to abolish the German Unity Day holiday in a bid to boost the economy.

SPD Interior Minister Otto Schily slammed the proposed Muslim holiday as “absurd.”

Some of moderate Greens members also distanced themselves from the idea.

“Nobody would dream of proposing to Saudi Arabia that they should celebrate Pentecost,” noted Greens parliamentary leader Katrin Goering-Eckardt.

Bild, which is Germany’s biggest selling tabloid, splashed the proposed Muslim holiday across its front page.

“By the beard of the Prophet – send Trittin into the desert wilderness!” declared the paper on its front page, which included a photo-montage of the minister with a turban and thick beard.

A further photo-montage showed thousands of Muslims bowed in prayer in front of Berlin’s Reichstag which houses the federal parliament.

There are about 3.4 million Muslims living in Germany out of a total population of 82 million.

In a related development, officials were considering whether to deport a Turkish Muslim preacher in Berlin for making strongly anti-German comments in a mosque which were filmed and shown on TV.

The preacher, who has been identified only as Yakup T., was shown in ZDF public TV at the Mevlana Mosque in Berlin’s heavily Turkish Kreuzberg district saying: “These Germans, these atheists, these Europeans don’t shave under their arms and their sweat collects under their hair with a revolting smell and they stink … Hell lives for the infidels! Down with all democracies and all democrats!”

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