Turkish high school asks students to keep Xmas celebrations under wraps
Istanbul,Dec20:As the holiday season approached, the administration of Istanbul High School — an academy in Muslim-majority Turkey partly funded by the German government — took a highly unusual step. It instructed, according to an email obtained by Germany’s DPA news service, that Christmas this year should be kept under wraps.
No teaching of Christmas customs.No celebrations and certainly no Christmas caroling.In fact, German officials confirmed, the school’s choir canceled its traditional Christmas concert performance at Germany’s consulate in Istanbul.
The school, at which many classes are taught in German, is prestigious in Turkey and counts at least three Turkish prime ministers as alumni. German taxpayers pay about 1 million euros annually to support it, and news of the restrictions quickly sparked an uproar in the heart of Europe, where a debate about conservative Islam is raging.
German politicians and social-media pundits were attacking the Islamic-tinged and authoritarian government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan for allegedly creating an environment in Turkey — the birthplace of Saint Nicholas — in which Christmas has become politically incorrect.
The school said it had taken steps after the German teachers dealt with “Christmas and Christianity in a way which the curriculum does not provide for” and that “viewed from the outside opens the door to [accusations] of manipulation,” according to German media outlets.
In an email to The Washington Post, Volker Schult, the head of the school’s German department, declined to comment.
On Sunday, Germany’s Foreign Ministry called the incident “regrettable,” even as social-media pundits and politicians across the political spectrum fumed.