'Islam doesn't belong to Germany': German interior minister talks tough on immigration

'Islam doesn't belong to Germany': German interior minister talks tough on immigration

Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, well-known as a severe critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy toward migrants, recently said that Islam is not part of German culture. "Germany is characterized by Christianity", Seehofer told German daily Bild on Friday.

"There are now four million Muslims living in Germany and they practice their religion here and these Muslims belong to Germany, as does their religion - Islam", 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's CSU, sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats, is seeking to rebuild itself after a disappointing result in September's general election.

Asked about Seehofer's comments, Merkel said while Germany is shaped by its Judeo-Christian heritage, "now there are 4 million Muslims living in Germany" - a country of about 82 million people.

Interior minister says Islam incompatible with German values.

The interior minister said that he wanted to "seek, and if necessary expand" dialogue to ensure that Muslims "lived with, instead of in parallel to or against" their fellow German citizens. Many of them are second or third-generations of Turkish families who migrated to Germany in the 1960s, and are said to be well integrated in the country.

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Only this week, an 18-year-old Afghani refugee whose application to remain in Germany was rejected was arrested for allegedly murdering his 17-year-old girlfriend because she would not convert to Islam.

The comment provoked little reaction at the time but when Christian Wulff, then president of the country, revived the phrase in 2010, it touched off a heated national debate about what it means to be German.

Seehofer is over at the interior ministry, now officially called the Interior, Construction and Heimat Ministry.

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

Seehofer is particularly keen to show his party is tackling immigration ahead of Bavaria's October regional election, when the AfD is expected to enter that state assembly.

The new government, composed of Merkel's center-right bloc and the Social Democrats, has declared it would take steps to curb immigration to avoid a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis.

Talking to "BILD" on Friday, Seehofer announced that he would hold conferences with Islamic community leaders to discuss problems in the integration of Muslims in Germany.

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