Newcomers to Germany may not realize that there is a significant Muslim population in the country. There are an estimated 4+ million Muslims in Germany, largely due to a massive labor migration in the 1960s and a subsequent political refugee influx since the 1970s. Germany's Turkish population numbers over 3 million people and this group alone has had a significant impact on the country's culture and politics. For example, you can thank Turkish immigrants for the beloved döner kabob.
While there are many outstanding issues with integration in Germany, the country is trying to marry its many different cultures under one black, red and gold roof. Tag der Deutschen Einheit (Germany Unity Day) is also Open Mosque Day in an attempt to promote understanding of the different religions and cultures that make up the modern nation of Germany.
The largest Islamic event of the year, Ramadan, is also being celebrated. While observations are not as apparent as in predominately Islamic nations, subtle signs that the blessed month of Ramadan is underway are everywhere.
Observing Ramadan in Germany
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is a time of fasting, purification of the soul and prayer. Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, sexual intimacy and negative behaviors like swearing, lying or engaging in anger from Imsak (just before sunrise) until Maghrib (sunset). These practices are to cleanse the spirit and refocus attention on God. People wish each other "Ramadan Kareem" or "Ramadan Mubarak" for a successful, happy and blessed month.
How to Be Respectful to Ramadan Observers in Germany
While observing Muslims in Germany are under strict guidelines for conduct during Ramadan, most people in Germany won't notice many changes in their daily routine.
Because Ramadan is not an official holiday in Germany, work conditions do not usually allow people to participate as they would in Muslim dominant countries. Choosing to observe is an individual decision. Though some Muslim-operated shops and restaurants close or have reduced hours, the vast majority stay open. As the holiday has been in the summer in recent years, this is the perfect time for many Muslim immigrants to return to their home countries and observe the holiday in the traditional manner.
Even if you aren't a practicing Muslim, it is important to be respectful of those who are during this holy time. To be positive, patient and charitable are sentiments everyone should be able to focus on.
- Celebrate the nightlife - Many establishments stay open late. Note differences in opening hours and engage in after dark activities when normal errands take on a festive air.
- Be patient - While Germany's temperatures (even in summer) rarely reach boiling temperatures, fasting can be very difficult. Be aware that observers may be a bit slower and more irritable than usual and extend your patience and understanding.
- Don't swear - Part of being respectful at any time is to abstain from cursing, obscenities and rude gestures and this is particularly important during Ramadan.
- Be charitable - Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam and being charitable is something anyone can respect and engage in.
- Use the lingo - "Ramadan Kareem" can be said throughout Ramadan. It translates to "Ramadan is generous" and means that you wish the month to be full of blessings and spiritual rewards.