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Muslim U-turn on PE and sex lessons

Germany

The new chairman of the Central Muslim Council in Germany (ZMD) has urged Muslim parents to let their children take part in school sports, class outings and sex instruction classes to "foster better integration" into German schools.

Axel Ayyub Kohler, a convert to Islam from eastern Germany, said it was more important than ever for Muslims to show their willingness to integrate "in view of the heightened fears and prejudices facing Muslims in these troubled times".

Mr Kohler also said non-participation in sports was unhealthy as well as detrimental to integration in schools, where more than 700,000 pupils are Muslims.

His pronouncement marks a U-turn for ZMD, which until now has defended Muslim parents' rights to withdraw children from certain activities or lessons, such as biology classes on sexual reproduction, on the grounds that this ran "counter to Islamic teaching".

Muslim parents who forbid children to do sports risk being fined following a recent case in Duesseldorf. There, a Muslim couple took the local education authorities to court after being threatened with a fine for refusing to let their son join in swimming lessons where he risked seeing female pupils "immodestly dressed".

The couple withdrew charges after the judge ruled in favour of the school pointing out that scantily-clad young girls were seen everywhere so there was no reason to exclude the boy from swimming.

In Berlin, education minister Klaus Boger is introducing state-wide compulsory lessons on "ethics" from this autumn for pupils aged 13 and above. All pupils - Catholic and Protestant, Jewish and Muslim will be taught basic social and religious values together.

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