Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hardline new interior minister declared Islam is “not part of Germany” in an interview published on Friday, setting off a political storm two days into her fourth term.
Asked by the top-selling Bild daily whether the influx of Muslim migrants and asylum seekers to Europe’s top economy over the past several decades 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.”
Merkel quickly contradicted her minister, saying that despite Germany’s Judeo-Christian roots, more than four million Muslims now made their homes in the country. “These Muslims are part of Germany and with them, their religion, Islam, is just as much a part of Germany,” she told reporters after talks with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
Despite Merkel’s intervention, Seehofer’s comments are likely to prove divisive in the fledgling right-left “grand coalition”, which only came together when the reluctant Social Democrats (SPD) got on board after months of political paralysis.