“You might not see it from my appearance, as I don‘t wear a head scarf,” Sawsan Chebli, deputy spokeswoman of the Foreign Ministry told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) last weekend in Berlin.
“But I do pray. I do fast. I don‘t eat pork and I don‘t drink alcohol,” added Chebli who describes herself as a pious Muslim.
Chebli, 35, a German Muslim of Palestinian origin, was hired last week by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the new foreign minister, as a deputy spokesperson for chief spokesman Martin Schaefer.
Breaking the German Foreign Ministry’s decades-long tradition, Chebli’s appointment has set aside the rules that underscore spokespersons’ career experience in diplomacy and aristocratic surnames.
The Muslim diplomat held previous posts with the social Democratic Parliamentary caucus, besides dealing with ethnic minorities for the state government of Berlin.
Born in Berlin, Chebli, whose parents moved to Germany in the 1970s, received the German citizenship at the age of 15.
Chebli, who has a political sciences degree, has worked for six years at the parliament of Germany (Bundestag).
Welcoming her new post as the first Muslim deputy spokesperson, Chebli said, “I hope that someday, that religion or ethnicity will be not in the foreground and will be perceived as normal.”
Last September, a Turkish-born German woman made history in German election, becoming the first ever Muslim lawmaker in the Bundestag.
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 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.
Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.