He should have added, “and never will be.” Volker Kauder, head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, said, “Islam is not part of our tradition and identity does not belong in Germany,” fueling tension at a conference on integrating Muslims that also debated a radical Salafist campaign to hand out 25 million copies of the Quran to non-Muslims.
REUTERS “But Muslims do belong in Germany. As state citizens, of course, they enjoy their full rights,” he added. The conference was one of a series hosted by the government to improve the integration of the four million Muslims living in Germany, about half of whom have German citizenship. While some people of Turkish origin have risen to prominent political and public positions, many others live in their own communities and studies show many youngsters struggle to learn German properly, limiting their chances of finding work.
In response to concern about radicalization and aware of the stimulus a well-qualified cohort of young Muslims could give to Europe’s biggest economy, Merkel set up forums, or conferences, six years ago to improve integration.
Kauder’s comments quickly drew fire. “Volker Kauder is the last crusader for the conservatives. He is putting a bomb in the Islam conference,” said senior opposition Social Democrat (SPD) lawmaker Thomas Oppermann. “(He).. is denigrating and marginalizing all Muslims in Germany. That course is utterly wrong,” he said.
Participants at Thursday’s Islam conference, comprising delegates from the federal and state governments and Islamic groups, discussed the controversial distribution of the Quran by Salafist group “The True Religion” in Germany. Critics, many from Merkel’s traditionally Catholic party, say the campaign is ideological, aimed at recruiting supporters.
“Religion must not be allowed to be misused for ideological claims to power,” said Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich. “We (the conference) agree that Salafist extremism is not acceptable and does not fit in a free society as we have in Germany,” he said, adding that Salafists did not enjoy the support of the majority of Muslims in Germany.
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has described Ibrahim Abu Nagie, who launched the campaign, as a prominent exponent of Salafism, which has its roots in Saudi Arabia, and German authorities view his website as a hub for radical Islamists.
The campaign poses a dilemma as any move to stop the distribution of the Quran – a perfectly legal activity – could be seen as anti-Islamic. (And…..what’s your point?)
Two years ago a painful row erupted over a bestseller by former central banker Thilo Sarrazin, who said Turkish and Arab immigrants sponged off the state and threatened German culture. (It is still a best-seller around the world) Soon after, Germany’s then-President Christian Wulff won wide praise from Muslims by saying that Islam was part of Germany. (That’s why he is now the ‘then-President’)
The Islam conference also discussed gender equality and condemned Muslim domestic violence and forced marriage.