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A Muslim as German chancellor?

March 7, 2019

The party of Chancellor Angela Merkel has been roiled by a debate about whether a Muslim could lead the CDU and one day become chancellor. One lawmaker couldn't believe anyone would even suggest such a thing.

Girls holding a banner that reads Deutschland
Image: Getty Images/S. Schuermann

The parliamentary group leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has sparked a divisive debate after he said a Muslim could be a future CDU leader and chancellor of Germany.

Asked by media outlet Idea if a Muslim could lead the party and become chancellor in 2030, Ralph Brinkhaus said: "Why not, if they're a good politician, and they represent our values and our political views?"

The interview took place in late February, but it stirred a backlash only after Bild, Germany's biggest tabloid newspaper, reported on it on Wednesday.

Read more: Is Islam changing Germany?

Shock and horror among CDU colleagues

"For the love of God, I can't believe Ralph Brinkhaus said that," Vincent Kokert, the CDU's chief in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, told the paper. "No, I can't believe it."

Elisabeth Motschmann, a member of the CDU's executive board, dismissed Brinkhaus' view that Islam was compatible with the party's values.

"The values of Islam are very different from our values — for example, when it comes to questions of equal rights for men and women," she said.

Read more: Muslims 'integrate' well into Germany  but aren't accepted

Lawmaker: Muslims can't become chancellor

Brinkhaus told Idea that people's values were more important than their religion when deciding on their leadership qualities.

"The CDU is not a religious community — that is what distinguishes us from the Catholic Church," he said.

But some lawmakers said the party's name needed to be taken seriously. "The 'C' in the party name wasn't chosen arbitrarily," CDU lawmaker Eberhard Gienger told Bild.

Gienger also dismissed that a Muslim could ever be German chancellor, regardless of party affiliation.

"Having a Muslim chancellor would imply that Muslims would constitute the majority in Germany," he said. "This is not the case."

Read more: Seehofer tells Islam conference Muslims are a part of Germany

'Completely idiotic' debate

But some CDU lawmakers defended Brinkhaus' comments.

"Are you being serious? To say anything other than what Brinkhaus said doesn't belong in a mainstream party or one that takes the constitution seriously," Serap Güler, the only Muslim member of the CDU's executive board, wrote on Twitter.

Karin Prien, the education minister in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, also said she saw no good reason why being a Christian was a necessary qualification for becoming party chief or chancellor.

The CDU's center-left coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), dismissed the entire debate as "completely idiotic."

"All these identity debates are conducted only in the CDU," the SPD's deputy leader, Ralf Stegner, told the Saarbrücker Zeitung newspaper. "They have nothing to do with the real problems in Germany."

amp/sms (dpa, KNA)

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