German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble hailed the start of a two-year dialogue with representatives of the Muslim community as a "success" but said the road ahead would be difficult.
Schäuble said the dialogue will challenge Muslims and non-Muslims alike
In a speech to parliament in Berlin early Thursday, Schäuble said the government wanted
to establish a new basis for the coexistence of Muslims and the other residents of Germany.
Islam is "part of the future"
"Islam is a part of Germany and of Europe," he said. "Islam is a part of our present and our future."
On Wednesday, 15 government envoys and 15 figures picked to represent both religious and secular Muslims met for three hours of initial talks in Berlin.
The government estimates there are between 3.2 million and 3.5 million people of Islamic heritage living in Germany, the greatest number of them either immigrants from Turkey or their descendants.
Need for unified demands
The community is upset at discrimination and the government is keen to advance their "integration," but the community is a patchwork of different ethnicities and religious traditions and has yet to develop unified demands.
Schäuble said he regarded the start of the dialogue as a success, with the debate both frank and controversial. He said the main thing was that it was a "fresh departure," adding: "It will be a stony path ahead, both for the Muslims and for the state."