Germany debates role of Islam
Germany’s newly appointed interior minister Horst Seehofer was quoted saying by Bild during the week that “Islam doesn’t belong to Germany” but he added that “the Muslims who live with us are, of course, part of Germany”.
Seehofer, a former head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) which is the Christian Democratic Union’s sister party. The CSU has always held a harder line on immigration than Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU. The CSU faces a state election in October, in which the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) will challenge its grip on Bavaria.
Merkel said on Friday that while Germany was shaped by its Christian tradition “there are 4 million Muslims living in Germany”.
“They can live their religion here, too,” Merkel said. “These Muslims belong to Germany and in the same way their religion belongs to Germany, that is to say Islam.” She added that the forms of Islam practised must conform to the constitution.
Social Democratic Party (SPD) federal justice minister Katarina Barley proposed an end to the divisive debate. “Theoretical debates have been going on for long enough,” Barley told yesterday’s (Saturday) Rheinische Post, adding that solutions should be found to issues. “As far as our values are concerned, the basic law is and will remain the basis of our co-existence.”
SPD family minister Franziska Giffey echoed her party colleague. “On the ground, such debates do not help at all,” she told broadcaster ZDF. The government should concentrate on organising residents, whatever their origin or religion, so they can live together and help shape society.
Merkel has other challenges and yesterday (Saturday) she defended the German trade surplus with the US, saying she was working to encourage domestic demand but that not all factors could be controlled by the authorities.
Donald Trump and his staff have been critical of Germany’s trade surplus.
Economy minister Peter Altmaier is leaving for Washington for talks as a trade war looms.
Merkel said domestic demand had been growing, helping narrow the trade surplus to €244.9 billion last year from a record €248.9 billion in 2016.
But she said oil price and exchange rate shifts were outside German control, and a trade surplus also “show that our products are in demand”.
Trump called for tariffs on steel and aluminium and the EU issued a list of US goods it could introduce duties on if the charges are enforced by Washington.
Germany has suggested that the real problem lies with Chinese overproduction.
Yesterday, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Merkel discussed overcapacity in steel markets and reportedly agreed to work on possible solutions within the framework of the G20.
Germany has a well-established Turkish community. Picture credit: Wikimedia