LOWER SAXONY – Following the suit of Bremen and Hamburg, the government of Lower Saxony in Germany has recognized Islam as an official religion in the district, confirming that Muslims were a key part in the society.
“A mutual skepticism occurred in the past and our government wishes to show its respect to the Muslims with this contract,” Lower Saxony Prime Minister Stephen Weil told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday, October 1.
Weil was speaking during the meeting at which Weil convened the representatives of Islamic institutions at the provincial guest-house to initiate the talks to accept Islam as an official religion.
The meeting hosted the Chairman of Provincial Union of Lower Saxony and Bremen of Turkish Islamic Union of Religious Affairs Yilmaz Kilic, Chairman of Hannover Council Avni Altiner and Chairman of Alawite Unions Federation in Germany Huseyin Mat along several German politicians and guests.
Signing the contract to recognize Islam was an initial step which needed further discussions to allow Muslims a wider recognition in the European country.
"We have about 30 issues upon which we desire to discuss and agree on,” Kilic said for his part.
“We would like to sign a contract which can set an example for other major provinces.”
Last January, three German states, namely Bremen Hamburg and Hesse, recognized Islamic organizations as official religious bodies.
Under a similar contract, Muslim holidays as `Eid Al-Fitr and `Eid Al-Adha were recognized as official vacations.
The official recognition of Muslim groups as religious bodies allows them the right to minister to Muslims in prisons, hospitals and other public institutions.
Muslims are allowed - within certain legal constraints - to build mosques and bury their dead by their own religious rites.
The contracts are a milestone in the relationship between German states and Muslim associations.
Muslim groups like the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and the Association of Islamic Cultural Centers (VIKZ) have long campaigned for recognition as religious bodies.
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.
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