Interior minister reignites debate over Islam in Germany | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 06.03.2011

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Interior minister reignites debate over Islam in Germany

Hans-Peter Friedrich's comments on Islam not being a key part of the German way of life have landed Berlin's new interior minister in the middle of a growing imbroglio.

A young woman wearing a headscarf speaking to two women without a headscarf

Is Islam a key part to the German way of life?

Reactions to Hans-Peter Friedrich's statements about the role of Islam in Germany gained volume on Saturday, March 5, as the new interior minister reiterated his comments on Islam.

Friedrich had created a fresh round of furor over integration in Germany shortly after taking over the position of interior minister. Islam is not a key part of the German way of life, Friedrich told journalists last week on his first day on the job.

"Successful integration requires two things: knowledge of the social reality in Germany - where about 4 million Muslims live - and a clear awareness of the Western Christian origin of our culture," he said in Berlin on Saturday.

Friedrich added that he wanted to initiate a dialogue "in this sense" with his Muslim fellow citizens.

Learning the language

Hans-Peter Friedrich

Hans-Peter Friedrich tackled the issue of Islam on his first day

The new interior minister also said everyone living or growing up in Germany must "first and foremost learn German." He said his chief goal as interior minister was to "bring society together and not polarize it."

Politicians have weighed in on both sides of the issue, with some, like Christian Social Union general secretary Alexander Dobrindt saying, Islam "is not part of German culture."

The chairman of the liberal-Islamic Federation, Lamya Kaddor, called the words of the minister a "slap in the face of Muslims."

Such statements are not only politically and historically wrong," Kaddor said. "I think they are dangerous."

This kind of approach could negate any progress in the debate on Islam in recent years and weaken the dialogue with many Muslims, according to Kaddor.

Friedrich took over the post of interior minister from Thomas de Maiziere, who had moved into the post of defense minister, recently vacated by Theodor zu Guttenberg.

Friedrich's comments contradicted those made by German President Christian Wulff in October, when he said Islam now "belongs to Germany" because of the sizeable portion of the country that practices Islam. Both men are members of the conservative parties that form the larger partner of Germany's coalition government.

Author: Stuart Tiffen (dpa, AP)
Editor: Toma Tasovac

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