Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Mustafa Şentop has defended a controversial ban imposed on Christmas celebrations at a German high school in İstanbul, saying that it is impossible to allow the German government to make political and religious propaganda in Turkey.
“Come to your senses. This is Turkey. Religious and political propaganda by the German government on the children of this country cannot be allowed at a state school,” Şentop wrote from his Twitter account on Monday.
DPA reported that the Turkish administrators of the İstanbul Lisesi, established more than 100 years ago, announced that Christmas traditions and the singing of carols would no longer be part of the curriculum.
The move, which has angered German politicians and officials at the country’s foreign ministry, occurred a week after the school’s choir was prevented from singing at the German Consulate General in İstanbul.
Sharing a news clip from the Hürriyet newspaper about the ban on Christmas celebrations at the İstanbul Lisesi from his Twitter account, Şentop said Germans, who do not allow Muslim and Turkish students in their countries to take lessons on religion, are willing to do missionary work in Turkey.
“[There are reports suggesting that] there were German teachers at the school who prepared mulled wine at school and made students drink it. I wonder how a Turkish teacher who promotes Islam among German-Christian students at a state school in Germany would be treated?” asked Şentop.
The German Foreign Office called the decision “regrettable” and said it would seek dialogue with its Turkish partners over the incident, according to DPA, which also reported that the school itself denied on its website Sunday night that it had passed a Christmas ban.
In a relevant statement on Monday, the administration of the İstanbul Lisesi denied claims that it banned Christmas celebrations at school, adding that news reports suggesting otherwise were aimed at perception management.
As for the cancelation of the Christmas concert by the school’s choir, the administration said the move was supported by the head of the German department at the school due to their belief in a secular education.
Frank Josef Jung, a deputy from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in charge of religious affairs, called the situation “completely unacceptable” and said that since Germany finances teachers at the school, it should have input into what they teach.
The abrupt cancellation is seen by German politicians as part of a move away from secularism engineered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The Die Welt newspaper in a photograph portrayed Erdoğan as the Grinch who stole Christmas, of the famous Dr. Seuss children’s story.