Sunday, 01 December 2019 15:07

GERMANY – Saint Martin's Day Incident Used To Broadcast Anti-Muslim Sentiments

Two articles based on an incident which occurred at this year's Saint Martin’s Day celebrations in West Germany were used to peddle anti-Muslim sentiments. This is Germany’s media monitoring highlight for November.

This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of November, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom. 

MMH Nov GermanyDate of publication: 14 November 2019

Media Outlet: Junge Freiheit ("Young Freedom") is a German weekly newspaper situated between national-conservative and far-right media, often times catering to narratives of the so-called "New Right" and Compact Online, a far-right magazine


Headlines: “Muslima indignant: St Martin is no longer allowed to perform” (Junge Freiheit) & “Fired because he called St. Martin's a Christian festival” (Compact)

Examination of the anti-Muslim content: The two articles revolve around an incident at this year’s Saint Martin's day celebration in West Germany. During these festivities, children walk through town with colourful lanterns in a big procession, singing songs about the saint and the legend of how he shared half his cloak with a beggar. Usually, a re-enactment of this scene takes place at the end of the procession and children receive pastries or bags of candy, depending on the regional customs. According to local news, while a Muslim mother wearing a headscarf waited in line with her children to receive the pastries in a town near Bonn, the performer of the Saint Martin character reportedly stated emphatically  that Saint Martin’s day is a Christian tradition. Later, the mother’s sister-in-law took to Facebook to express her frustration, stating that the comment made the mother feel unwelcome and excluded. In the end, several organisations and officials condemned the performer’s remark and the performer will apparently not be asked to play the part again. 

Both Junge Freiheit and Compact frame this incident as though the performer was merely stating a fact in an innocuous manner, with the insinuation being that Muslims were overly sensitive. Junge Freiheit remains more subtle throughout its article, yet still starts off with the sensationalist headline “Muslima indignant: Saint Martin is no longer allowed to perform.” This framing evidently played well with the online audience since the article generated a high number of interactions on social media, particularly Facebook. 

Compact’s article goes a bit further with its framing and insinuation. For instance, the article starts by referencing other supposed attacks on the festivity such as instances in which Saint Martin’s day was occasionally renamed by kindergartens, allegedly “to pay tribute to Muslim sensitivities” and “in order to keep it deliberately neutral and thus open to all nations.” The article links these perceived infringements on this Christian tradition to Muslims by ironically raising doubts that “this neutrality” will also lead to a “de-Islamising of the Muslim Ramadan festival in order not to offend the (still existing) Christian children.” 

Combined with the framing that a performer at a Christian celebration was fired for merely stating that the tradition is of Christian origin, such jabs about “still existing” Christian children play into the conspiracy narrative of “Islamisation” and the “war on Christmas.” As discussed in previous Media Monitoring Highlights, the “Islamisation” conspiracy narrative holds that Muslims aim to replace Western and/or Christian traditions – and the “war on Christmas” conspiracy narrative conveys the idea that the Christian tradition of celebrating Christmas is under attack by nefarious forces – often  as a so-called “PC (politically correctness) culture” or Muslims. 

As such, the articles implicitly or explicitly perpetuate stereotypes about Muslims being a danger to Christian and/or Western cultures, claiming that they slowly try to erode customs under the pretence of a factitious call for inclusion. 

More to read:

How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created

Controversy over public religious Christmas displays in America is fueled by differing beliefs regarding Christmas and American history. 

When a Muslim celebrating Christmas causes angst it’s no wonder we think we can’t win

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