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German interior minister floats idea of Muslim holidays

Debate simmers over whether to allow Islamic holidays after Thomas De Maiziere endorses idea on campaign trail.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere

Germans are debating whether to allow the celebration of Islamic holidays at the state level in areas where large numbers of Muslims live.

The discussions come after the interior minister endorsed the idea on October 10.

Thomas De Maiziere, a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) which won federal elections last month, made his comments during a campaign rally for state elections in Lower Saxony in the country's northwest.

"I'm willing to talk about the possibility of introducing Islamic holidays," de Maiziere said.

According to the German constitution, all 16 states can decide on their own which religious public holidays are celebrated.

"In areas where a lot of Catholics live, we celebrate All Saint's Day, and in areas where not a lot of Catholics live we don't celebrate All Saint's Day. So why can't we think about Islamic holidays as well?" said de Maiziere.

Currently, for example, fewer than five states celebrate the Catholic Assumption of Mary holiday and the Christian Epiphany.

The only holiday under federal law - meaning all states must mark the occasion - is Germany Unity Day, during which the reunification of Germany is celebrated.

"But in general, our holidays are Christian and that will remain like that," De Maiziere added. "They shape us and it will remain like that."

READ MORE: Far-right AfD says Islam not welcome in Germany

'Out of the question'

Members of the CSU, the CDU's Christian conservative sister-party that only operates in the state of Bavaria, criticised de Maiziere's stance.

"Officially introducing Islamic holidays in Germany is out of the question for us," said Alexander Dorbrindt, leader of the CSU parliamentary members.

Other CSU members noted that "Christian traditions ... have shaped Germany over hundreds of years and that won't change today."

In an interview with the German newspaper Bild, Bavaria's interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, disagreed with de Maiziere's idea, saying he did not believe it would be implemented in Bavaria.

The far-right, anti-immigration AfD party, which made gains in September's election, blasted the interior minister's plan.

"CDU wants Islamic holidays. That's the difference with AfD: we say NO! NO! NO! to that," said Beatrix von Storch, deputy AfD leader, writing on Twitter.

Sven Tritschler, who leads AfD's youth wing, posted an Islamophobic tweet. 

"So Islamic holidays? Day of stoning? Day of the lynched homosexual? Day of the burning church? What should it be?" he said.

However, some politicians reacted positively to the plan.

Martin Schulz, head of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, told German press agency DPA that de Maiziere's idea was "worth thinking about".

Germany is home to 4.4 million Muslims, over five percent of the population, most of whom live either in Berlin or western cities. 

The majority of Germany's Muslims hail from Turkey and arrived in the 1960s and 70s.

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