Merkel says Islam belongs to Germany; rebuffs interior minister's remarks

TodayWorldGermany Angela Merkel reelected as Chancellor Mar 15 2018

TodayWorldGermany Angela Merkel reelected as Chancellor Mar 15 2018

German parliament Bundestag elects new chancellor in Berlin Thomson Reuters BERLIN (Reuters) - New Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Islam did not belong to Germany, in an interview published on Friday, setting him on a collision course with Chancellor Angela Merkel who has stressed the need to integrate Muslims.

"Our country is heavily influenced by Christianity - and a Jewish influence - but in the meantime four million Muslims are living in Germany and they also practise their religion here and these Muslims also belong to Germany and so their religion, Islam, also belongs to Germany", she said.

Merkel, who has faced strong criticism from some Germans as well as elsewhere in Europe for agreeing to take in so many migrants, a lot of them Muslims, reaffirmed on Friday her vision of an inclusive, multi-ethnic Germany.

Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria, also outlined a number of tough new measures to curtail immigration and make it easier for Germany to deport failed asylum seekers. "Germany is shaped by Christianity", he said. "My message is: Muslims need to live with us, not next to us or against us". Many of them have a Turkish background and numerous more than a million migrants who have arrived in the country from the Middle East and elsewhere after Merkel adopted an open-door policy in mid-2015 are also Muslims.

The "Islam doesn't belong to Germany" remark was repeatedly made by the AfD party before the general election past year.

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.

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Under the coalition deal, the CDU-CSU conservative bloc and the Social Democrats (SPD) agreed to limit migration.

The phrase "Islam is part of Germany" was coined by former President Christian Wulff in 2010 and has since become a battleground for those who oppose mass migration from Muslim countries.

Seehofer rejected criticism that the new German Cabinet doesn't include any people of colour, adding: 'Do I have to be a doctor in order to be health minister?'

In her comments to reporters Friday, Merkel said she supported the practice of Islam in Germany "on the basis of the constitution" and pledged her new government would continue a formal dialogue with the Muslim community started by Schaeuble in 2006.

Andre Poggenburg, head of the AfD in the eastern state of Saxony, said Seehofer was copying his party with a view to Bavaria's October regional election, "Horst Seehofer has taken this message from our manifesto word for word", he said.

Horst Seehofer has always been a vocal critic of Mrs Merkel's refugee policies but has now taken up a key role at the heart of her new coalition.

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