Germany's Interior Ministry has come under fire for serving blood sausage at a national Islam conference last week, despite pork being forbidden for practicing Muslims.
The issue has stirred a heated debate — one that touches on the fault line issues of integration and respect for different religions — between critics of the ministry and right-wing groups who justified the decision to serve the dish.
The ministry has defended its decision to serve the sausage consisting of pig's blood, pork and bacon at the evening buffet on Wednesday. It said the serving reflected the "religious-pluralistic composition" of the event, which brought together Muslim associations and leaders with officials from the federal and local governments.
The ministry added that there was a wide range of food at the "clearly excellent" buffet, with vegetarian, meat, fish and halal dishes available. "If individuals were still offended for religious reasons, we regret this," it said.
Nonetheless, some have viewed the choice of blood sausage as a deliberate provocation by hardline Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
In March, Seehofer caused a stir when he said in an interview that "Islam doesn't belong to Germany" and that "Germany has been shaped by Christianity," a comment he partially dialed back last week at the Islam conference.
Turkish-German journalist Tuncay Ozdamar, who first reported the "#BloodSausageGate" scandal, questioned on Twitter what message Seehofer had intended to send with the culinary decision.
"A little respect for Muslims who do not eat pork would be appropriate," wrote Ozdamar, who himself claims to eat pork.
In comments published on the website Watson.de, Ozdamar said he had no objection to offering pork in schools with Muslim children because Germany is a multi-cultural country.
"But if I convene an Islam conference and invite Muslims to engage in dialogue, solve the problems of religion that arise in everyday life, then I have to be a bit sensitive, tactful and respectful," he said.
Green Party politician Volker Beck also slammed the Interior Ministry, writing on Twitter that "appreciating diversity means also considering different habits."
No clear markings?
Ali Bas, a Green Party spokesman for religious issues, told Watson.de that the blood sausage was not clearly identified at the buffet, but was rather served on appetizer trays. The Interior Ministry had said the food servings were clearly marked.
Many Muslims abstain from eating meat if it is unclear whether it is halal. Blood sausage could potentially be confused with sucuk, a halal sausage widely consumed in Turkey and the Arab world.
The Interior Ministry reportedly served ham in the first year of the annual Islam Conference in 2006.
Far-right AfD sees threat
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) quickly entered the discussion, accusing critics of the Interior Ministry of launching an attack on German culture.
"Tolerance starts at the point where the blood sausage is seen simply for what it is: a German delicacy that no one has to like, but that, just like our way of life, cannot be taken away from us," AfD lawmaker Alice Weidel wrote on Twitter.
The post was accompanied by a picture of Weidel smiling in front of several blood sausages topped with basil leaves.
Ozcan Mutlu, a Green politician of Turkish descent, responded to the hysteria with a jab at the far-right.
"While the Twitter Nazis are fighting for the survival of the blood sausage and getting riled up over #BloodSausageGate, I'm drinking a beer at a German beer garden in Brooklyn to honor those sensible compatriots back home," he wrote on Twitter, using the hashtag "#87percent" to refer to the percentage of voters who did not back the AfD in the 2017 general election.