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FOOTBALL is religion for most Schalke 04 fans and the late Pope John Paul II was even an honorary club member, but some Muslims now feel offended by the official anthem of the Bundesliga club.
Many German Muslims, including some Schalke fans, have voiced their protest and threatened the club over the third stanza of the Blue and White, how I love youanthem, which refers to the Prophet Mohammed. Schalke's home strip is blue and white.
The incident was reported by some Turkish media a week ago, and threats have been made on various Internet forums and prompted Schalke to work with the police and other authorities.
Germany has some 4million Muslim inhabitants, most of whom have a Turkish background.
The passage the Muslims consider insulting translates as: "Mohammed was a prophet who understood nothing about football but from all the blaze of colour he picked the blue and white."
The anthem is based on a tune from 1797 that says: "Mohammed is my patron! He knew real beauty. He, for whom only green was holy from all the colours."
The Schalke version was created in 1924. It is sung before every home game.
A club spokesperson said that the club had received "around 350 e-mails".
"We are taking the situation very seriously and are in contact with police and state protection institutions."
Burhan Kesici, general secretary of the Islamic Council in Germany, called for restraint in the articulation of the protests but also urged Schalke to take action.
"It is not right that the prophet is mentioned in a club anthem. I would wish that out of respect for the Muslims in this country the Mohammed stanza is not sung," Kesici told the German Press Agency DPA.
Aiman Mazyek, the general secretary of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said: "We will not call for the song to be outlawed, but we want information about its background. We owe that to the many Turkish fans and the players of Schalke."
While no one has been offended by the third stanza until now, Muslims in Germany have seemingly become more sensitive after the July 1 killing of Egyptian woman Marwa el-Shirbini by a right-wing extremist in a Dresden courtroom.
The incident set off fierce accusations from the Muslim world that Germany was a racist, Islam-hating nation.
Mazyek said that "many Muslims don't feel secure anymore" after the incident. The head of Schalke's honorary council, Protestant priest Hans-Joachim Holm, is not taking the incident lightly, but also warned of a hasty reaction from the club.
Holm told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily that simply scrapping the controversial lines will lead to "a strong emotional backlash" from other Schalke fans.
Schalke fans have always been devoted to their club that has fielded Turkish players, including current squad member Halil Altintop. There have also always been religious connotations.
When Jehovah's Witnesses ran a poster campaign in the late 1960s in the club's home town of Gelsenkirchen under the slogan "No one can get past Jesus", some witty Schalke fans swiftly added "except Stan Libuda", in reference to another adored winger.
The late Pope John Paul II was made an honorary club member in 1987 after conducting an open-air service in the club's former Park Stadium. - Sapa-DPA