A high school in western Germany is in the midst of a controversy after banning its Muslim students from praying within the school campus, terming the action "provocative".
The ban notice sent by the Gymnasium Johannes Rau administration in Wuppertal was also posted on Facebook, following which many users slammed and questioned the school's decision, citing religious tolerance in Germany.
Local daily Der Westen, which first reported the issue, wrote that the school authorities declined to comment on the ban, but Düsseldorf authorities confirmed that the circular was shared on the social media site. The authorities also explained that Muslim students "praying provocatively" inside the school premises was making other students and teachers uncomfortable and thus, the administration had to make the decision.
"In recent weeks it has been increasingly observed that Muslim pupils in the school building are praying, clearly visible to others, signalled by ritual washings in the toilets, the rolling out of prayer mats, and taking up certain postures. This is not permitted," the circular read.
The message was reportedly circulated on 16 February, which also asked the teachers to "identify" the Muslim pupils who pray in the school and "report" about them to the administration. The message also said that the ban instruction must be pointed out to the students in a polite manner, Duetsche Welle wrote.
Düsseldorf authorities explained that the school only wanted to know the names of such students to be able to provide them alternative solutions, such as prayer rooms.
Authorities also said that the decision is constitutional as the school administration reserves the right to impose such a ban if it threatens the peaceful functioning of the school. "The ban on praying in a provocative manner in public school spaces is supposed to encourage peaceful coexistence and assure school peace," the authority said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a social media user questioned the school's decision, saying: "Why cannot they pray? And in this, a country as deeply religious as Germany, which has become as open and tolerant as we are today.
"Even our shepherdess constantly calls upon a thorough knowledge of the Bible," the person added in an apparent reference to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
However, there were many in support of the decision, including the country's right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The party's Wuppertal branch highlighted the migration issue in a separate Facebook post, saying: "This openly demonstrated lack of integration is a further proof of a cracking migration policy of the old parties."