Merkel ally says Islam does not belong in Germany
A leading conservative politician said on Thursday that Islam did not belong in Germany, fuelling tension at a conference on integrating Muslims that also debated a controversial Salafist campaign to hand out copies of the Koran across the country.
“Islam is not part of our tradition and identity in Germany and so does not belong in Germany,” Volker Kauder, head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, told the Passauer Neue Presse.
“But Muslims do belong in Germany. As state citizens, of course, they enjoy their full rights,” he added.
His remarks added to a highly charged nationwide debate about a campaign by an ultra-conservative Salafist Muslim group to hand out millions of free German translations of the Koran to non-Muslims.
The conference was one of a series hosted by the government to improve the integration of the four million Muslims living in Germany, about half of whom have German citizenship.
In response to concern about radicalization and aware of the stimulus a well-qualified cohort of young Muslims could give to Europe’s biggest economy, Merkel set up forums, or conferences, six years ago to improve integration.
Kauder’s comments quickly drew fire. “Volker Kauder is the last crusader for the conservatives. He is putting a bomb in the Islam conference,” said senior opposition Social Democrat (SPD) lawmaker Thomas Oppermann. “(He).. is denigrating and marginalizing all Muslims in Germany. That course is utterly wrong,” he said.