So much for freedom of religion in Germany…
A high school in the western Germany city of Wuppertal has prohibited Muslim students and staff from praying on its premises, sparking a heated debate about religious rights and freedom of expression in the country.
The Johannes Rau Gymnasium sent a note to students in February requesting them to “indentify and report” if they see any Muslim offering prayers at the school, to its administration.
According to the headmistress Christiane Genschel and assistant headmaster Rainer Kokenbrinker, some of the non-Muslims students felt uncomfortable at the “clearly visible praying” and witnessing the “ritual washing in the bathroom, the rolling out of prayer rugs and by the students putting their bodies in certain positions” and hence it will no longer be tolerated.
The controversial new edict has whipped up a storm of angry protests on social media.
Die Stadt Wuppertal, Deutschland Johannes Rau Gymnasium Verbietet die muslimischen Studenten zu beten. Das ist Deutsche Religion Freiheit— BiLaL (@Mythos50) March 2, 2017
Empörung in Wuppertal: Johannes-Rau-Gymnasium verbietet "provozierendes Beten dieses beten stört Hausfrieden https://t.co/HTKF4rp4CS— Jan Staltenberg (@JStaltenberg) March 2, 2017
After the backlash, the school admitted the choice of words were “unfortunate” and the administration only meant to bring Muslims students to discuss a solution to allow prayers in a “friendly” manner – even if their statement came across as extremely ignorant and Islamophobic.
However, turns out the school was legally allowed to stop people “praying in a provocative manner.”
The regional administration also supported the school’s stance.
“Banning provocative praying in the school's public space should promote peaceful coexistence and peace within the school,” the administration said.
Freedom of religion in Germnay is guaranteed by article 4 of the Basic Law (Germany’s Constitution) and there is no explicit regulation banning prayers in educational institutions. Although in recent years, the country has been hit by a wave of anti-Islam sentiments and xenophobia, particularly since Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to welcome refugees from war torn areas with open arms.
In 2015, 890,000 asylum seekers came into the country. The number declined sharply in 2016 when only 280,000 refugees were admitted, primarily due to the closure of borders of many Balkans countries.
Last year, racists attacked more than 3,533 refugees and their shelters, according to a report by the German Interior Ministry.
A total number of 560 people, including 43 children were injured in the hate crimes. In addition, 217 civil rights organization and volunteers also became targets.