German Muslims accuse Bavaria of double standards over crucifix order

Slideshow ( 7 images )

BERLIN (Reuters) - Muslim groups in Germany accused the Bavarian government of double standards on Friday as a new order requiring government buildings in the mainly Catholic southern region to display a crucifix went into effect.

There is no ban on Muslim women wearing a headscarf in Germany, though some states have restrictions on headscarves and other Muslim religious clothing in courtrooms and schools.

Markus Soeder, Bavaria’s premier of the arch-conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party, introduced the decree on crucifixes in April, drawing a furious reaction from opposition politicians and prominent clerics.

“We believe that religious symbols and values are important for society,” Burhan Kesici, the head of the Islamic Council organization, told Reuters.

Referring to rulings such as that in the Bavarian capital of Munich last March which banned headscarves in court rooms, Kesici said perceiving headscarves as something negative while celebrating and imposing crosses in public spaces amounted to “double standards”.

“We Muslims don’t have a problem with the cross or with valuing religion in the social life. However, government neutrality must remain protected,” Aiman Mazyek, the head of another Muslim organization, told Reuters.

“What doesn’t work is to accept Christian symbols while banning Islamic, Jewish and other symbols in public,” Mazyek said.

Some 4 million Muslims live in Germany, making them the largest religious minority group.

All government offices and departments in Germany’s wealthiest and most conservative state are obliged to hang a cross in their entrance area under the new rules. Schools, museums, and theaters will be recommended to place one.

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Richard Balmforth