Minister insists Islam 'does not belong in Germany'

Chancellor Angela Merkel's newly appointed Interior Minister has reignited an already-heated immigration debate by insisting that Islam "does not belong" in Germany – a country with a resident population of four million Muslims.

Hans-Peter Friedrich took office only last week in a cabinet reshuffle, but his outspoken views have provoked instant condemnation from opposition MPs and a vitriolic response from Islamic groups which have branded them a "slap in the face for all Muslims".

"To say that Islam belongs in Germany is not a fact supported by history", Mr Friedrich said. At the weekend, he underlined his position, insisting that immigrants ought to be aware of their host country's "Western Christian origins" and learn German "first and foremost".

His views flatly contradicted those of Germany's conservative President, Christian Wulff, who, in an attempt to defuse an increasingly bitter integration row, proclaimed in a keynote speech last year that Islam "belongs to Germany" precisely because of its large Muslim population.

Mr Friedrich, who belongs to the Bavarian wing of Ms Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats, a group known for its opposition to Muslim immigration, insisted in a speech on Saturday that his stance was meant to bring "society together and not polarise it".

He said he looked forward to discussing his position with Germany's predominantly Turkish Muslims at a government-sponsored Islamic conference at the end of the month. The minister was appointed a day after Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Germany's popular Defence Minister, was forced to resign over a scandal in which he was found to have plagiarised large sections of his university doctorate.

In an attempt to minimise the damage, Chancellor Merkel quickly reshuffled her cabinet, giving Thomas de Maizière, her trusted Interior Minister, the Defence Minister's job and importing Mr Friedrich to take over the Interior Ministry. Although his Bavarian conservatives have already called for a halt to Muslim immigration, few expected the new Interior Minister to spark controversy so quickly.

Lamya Kaddor, the chairman of Germany's liberal Islamic Foundation, described his remarks as a "slap in the face for all Muslims".

Insisting that Mr Friedrich was politically and historically wrong, she said his comments were "dangerous" as they threatened to undermine dialogue with Muslim groups.

Mr Friedrich's remarks have been angrily criticised by opposition Social Democrats, Greens and several leading members of Ms Merkel's liberal Free Democrat coalition partners. "Islam has been a real part of Germany for several generations now; it is unhelpful to deny this fact," Hartfrid Wolff, a liberal MP, complained.

The row is the latest episode of a long-running debate about immigration, integration and assimilation, which erupted last autumn following publication of an inflammatory book entitled Deutschland schafft sich ab ("Germany is doing away with itself") by Thilo Sarrazin, a former Federal Bank board member, who resigned his post following the furore his book caused.

Mr Sarrazin argues that Germans will soon be outnumbered by an underclass of semi-criminal Muslim immigrants, who have too many children, speak little or no German and depend on welfare payments to survive. His book has sold some 1.3 million copies, making it one of the biggest-selling titles in post-war Germany.

The debate has provoked headlines for months, yet it has so far been dominated by politicians, with German Muslim representatives taking only a back seat.

Last year, Ms Merkel proclaimed that attempts to build a multicultural society had "utterly failed". Her views were echoed by David Cameron in a speech he made in Germany last month.

Mr Friedrich's remarks were a clear sign that the hardline stance on integration taken by Ms Merkel's conservatives is becoming more strident.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us