A rift has opened in Germany's Green party on the influence that Muslim associations should be allowed to have on the education system. Liberal Muslims argue that their input is being blocked.

Two of the Green party's most prominent national leaders intervened in the debate in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the government - a coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the Greens - intends to give four major Muslim organizations the status of "public body," allowing them the right to offer religious education in state schools, as German churches do.

Green leader Cem Özdemir and the party's religion spokesman Volker Beck published a paper criticizing the plan as "rash" on the grounds that the groups were "nationally, politically, or linguistically stamped," and that they only represented a fraction of the four million Muslims in Germany.

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