Hamburg may soon become the first German state officially to recognize Islam as a religious community and give its Muslims the same legal rights as Christians and Jews in dealing with the local administration. (Photo: Hamburg port, September 29, 2000/Fabrizio Bensch)
Four years of quiet negotiations about building mosques, opening Muslim cemeteries and teaching Islam in public schools are nearing an end just when Germany is embroiled in a noisy debate about Islam and the integration of Muslim immigrants.
The deal seems set to go through, but the national debate on Islam and local political changes could make its approval more difficult than expected, politicians and Muslim leaders said.
Germany has an estimated 4 million Muslims, most of them of Turkish origin, in its 82 million population. Long treated as migrant workers due eventually to return to their countries of origin, they have become an established minority that wants equal rights. (Photo: Central Mosque in Hamburg, 8 Oct 2010/Christian Charisius)
The agreement in Germany’s second-largest metropolis, a city-state in the country’s federal system, would set out their rights and also their duties, such as consulting neighborhood residents before building mosques or erecting minarets.