A hardline minister said Islam is “not part of Germany” in an interview published on Friday, setting off a political storm.
When asked by the top-selling Bild daily whether the influx of Muslim migrants and asylum seekers to Europe’s top economy meant that Islam now belonged to the fabric of the nation, Horst Seehofer replied “no.”
“Islam is not part of Germany. Christianity has shaped Germany including Sunday as a day of rest, church holidays, and rituals such as Easter, Pentecost and Christmas,” he said.
“The Muslims who live among us are naturally part of Germany. But that of course does not mean that we, out of a false sense of deference, should sacrifice our traditions and customs.”
Germany’s Muslim community is estimated to count about 4.5 million members, around 1.8 million of whom are German citizens.
Merkel has come down firmly on the side of inclusion, repeatedly stating that Islam and Muslims belonged in Germany, and vocally defending the stance at the height of the refugee influx.
Her spokesman Steffen Seibert reiterated Merkel’s stance on Friday, stressing the German constitution’s protections for religious freedom and saying the government would “expand” a dialogue with the Muslim community started by Schaeuble in 2006.