Germany’s new interior minister has waded straight into controversy by claiming that Islam is not a key part of the German way of life.
Hans-Peter Friedrich, who took office last week in a cabinet reshuffle, stoked an increasingly serious row about immigration in his country when he told journalists: ‘Islam in Germany is not something supported by history at any point.’
Mr Friedrich was speaking in the context of an inquiry into the killing last week of two U.S. airmen at Frankfurt Airport. The suspect, 21-year-old Kosovan Arid Uka, is believed to be a lone operator motivated by radical Islamist beliefs.
Mr Friedrich later emphasised his position, saying that immigrants ought to be aware of Germany’s ‘western Christian origins’ and learn German ‘first and foremost’.
His comments were a play on the words of German President Christian Wulff, who in an attempt to defuse the integration row, has said that Islam now ‘belongs to Germany’ because of the four million Muslims who live there. Germany has western Europe’s second-biggest Islamic population after France with Turkish the single biggest minority.
Mr Friedrich’s remarks were condemned by opposition Social Democrats, Greens and several members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal Free Democrat coalition partners. Hartfrid Wolff, a liberal MP, said: ‘Islam has been a real part of Germany for several generations now; it is unhelpful to deny this fact.’
Dieter Wiefelsputz, of the Social Democratic Party, said Mr Friedrich’s comments were ‘rubbish’ and that the minister had started his term in office with ‘poor judgment’.
Lamya Kaddor, head of Germany’s liberal Islamic Foundation, said the remarks were a ‘slap in the face for all Muslims’ and ‘dangerous’.
However, the chancellor herself said last October that her country’s attempts to build a post-war multicultural society had ‘utterly failed’.
In a landmark speech to the youth wing of her own Christian Democrat Union party, she claimed those from a different background failed to live happily side-by-side with native Germans.
She said the so-called ‘multikulti’ concept – ‘that we are now living side by side and are happy about it’ – does not work. ‘This approach has failed, utterly,’ she said just days after a poll showed that a third of all Germans viewed immigrants as nothing more than welfare cheats.
Addressing fears of ‘German-ness’ being lost amid new mosques, headscarves in classrooms and Turkish ghettos in cities like Berlin, she added: ‘We feel bound to the Christian image of humanity – that is what defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here.’
The sentiment is also that of David Cameron, who said last month that multiculturalism has failed in Britain and left young Muslims vulnerable to radicalisation.
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