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German Muslim Elected President of State Parliament

CAIRO – A Muslim woman has been elected as the speaker of Baden-Württemberg state parliament, becoming the first to make such achievement in Germany.

“We wrote history today,” Green party politician Muhterem Aras said after being elected with a large majority as president (speaker) of the state legislature, The Local.de reported on Thursday, May 12.

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The south-western state had sent “a message of openness, tolerance, and successful integration,” by electing her, she added, promising to ensure a lively but fair debating culture in the chamber.

Aras, 50, is the daughter of Turkish parents who moved from Turkey to Stuttgart decades ago.

The tax accountant is the financial affairs spokeswoman for the Greens in the wealthy southern state of Baden-Württemberg.

She was elected with a big majority after 93 voted for her, 39 opposed, and three voters abstained.

The opponents were basically members of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) group who refused to applaud as Aras concluded her maiden speech.

But Jörg Meuthen, who leads the AfD in the Stuttgart parliament and serves as the party’s federal spokesman, dismissed the importance of her election for the party.

“We’ve always said that millions of people of Muslim faith are a part of Germany who live here, peacefully integrated,” Meuthen said.

“One of them is now speaker of the state parliament – so what?”

State lawmakers are expected to re-elect the Green party’s Winfried Kretschmann as minister-president (governor) in another first later this week.

The Greens will govern as the largest coalition party with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) as their junior partners.

It is the first time in the history of the Federal Republic that a party outside the CDU (plus its Bavarian sister party the CSU) or the centre left Social Democratic Party (SPD) has won the popular vote in a state election.

Germany has Europe’s second-biggest Muslim population after France, and Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.

It has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some five percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.

An estimated 484,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Germany by December 2015, 80 percent of who are Muslims.