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Germany: Ramadan lights to go up in Frankfurt for first time

March 6, 2024

For the first ever time, the German city of Frankfurt will celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by illuminating a main high street with half-moons, stars and lanterns. Local Muslims have welcomed the move.

An as yet unlit sign saying Happy Ramadan in central Frankfurt
Frankfurt's Muslim community has welcomed the decision to put up lights for RamadanImage: Boris Roessler/dpa/picture alliance

The German city of Frankfurt is aiming to send a message of peace and togetherness during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by illuminating a central high street with half-moons, stars and other decorations for the first time, German media reported first on Tuesday.

From March 10 until April 9, a month of fasting and reflection for Muslims, Frankfurt's pedestrianized Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse — known colloquially as the Fressgass (roughly: food alley) due to its proliferation of cafes and restaurants — will feature a large sign reading "Happy Ramadan!" and other illuminations.

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"Ramadan is a time in which people reflect on what is really important in life: having something to eat, a roof over your head, and peace and comfort with family, friends and neighbors," explained city council chairwoman Hilime Arslaner.

"I'm pleased that these messages of peace during Ramadan will be visible in our Frankfurt," she added.

City mayor Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg said that such messages are particularly important during times of war and crisis, adding: "These are the lights of togetherness: against prejudice, discrimination, anti-Muslim racism and also antisemitism."

Frankfurt Muslims welcome sign of togetherness

With a population of almost 800,000, Frankfurt is Germany's fifth-largest city (after Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne) and the center of the country's financial sector. It is also one of Germany's most proudly multicultural cities, with Muslims making up around 15% of the population (100,000-150,000).

Mohamed Seddadi, chairman of Frankfurt's Muslim Community, therefore welcomed the illumination plans as "very meaningful for Muslims," saying they signaled that: "We all belong together."

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While public street lighting has long formed part of Christian religious celebrations, especially at Christmas, Muslims in Western countries have also increasingly begun to decorate homes and buildings during Ramadan, according to Raida Chbib, head of the Academy for Islam in Research and Society (AIWG) at the Goethe University in Frankfurt.

The Frankfurt Ramadan plans therefore borrow from elements of both Islamic and Christian tradition.

"I'm delighted about this sign of recognition for Muslims," said Naweed Ahmad, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

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Mayor Eskandari-Grünberg said that the cost of lighting the city was €75,000 ($81,600).

Yannick Schwander, a representative from the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the city, said that pointed out that the funding for Christmas lights in Frankfurt came from trade associations and donations and argued that city funding for lights should not just be for one religion.

"We are of the opinion that if such a kitty exists, then it must serve all religious communities in Frankfurt," Schander said, according to reporting by the public local broadcaster HR.

Eskandari-Grünberg countered that the city spends substantially more money on Christmas lights through its business development program.

mf/ab (KNA, EPD, dpa)

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