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'Muslims, not Islam, part of Germany'

May 5, 2016

Volker Kauder, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Islam had not influenced Germany historically or culturally. But he warned against excluding Muslims from German society as desired by some populists.

Deutschland Zentralmoschee Köln Ehrenfeld
Image: picture-alliance/R. Hackenberg

Kauder told the "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung" in an interview published on Thursday that he considered a statement by former German President Christian Wulff saying that Islam was part of Germany to have been "well-meant," but imprecise.

"But just so there is no misunderstanding: The Muslims themselves are a part of Germany, no question about it," he said.

Kauder, who heads the parliamentary group of the union comprised of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), said he had several reasons for not sharing Wulff's opinion.

Deutschland PK Volker Kauder
Kauder's recent call for the monitoring of German mosques provoked some criticismImage: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Seeger

Among other things, he said, Islam had not shaped Germany "historically and culturally." He also argued that the religion of Islam was not based on a homogeneous set of teachings.

"There is certainly not just the one Islam, as this statement suggests," he said, adding that Islam also took on forms "that we can never accept in Germany."

However, he stressed that Muslims enjoyed the same freedom of religion as people of other faiths, and should not be excluded in the way many right-wing populists were currently proposing.

'Minarets allowed'

"That's why it is, of course, permissible to build mosques with minarets," the CDU politician said, in allusion to a recent decision by the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) to include a ban on minarets in its manifesto.

Deutschland Hamburg Plakat der AfD Ausschnitt
The AfD has voiced concern at an alleged influence of Islam in GermanyImage: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Bockwoldt

But Kauder said that even freedom of religion was not without restrictions, and was subject to other principles laid down by the German constitution: "Religion in Germany never stands above the state," the Christian Democrat said.

Kauder last week caused a stir with a demand that mosques in Germany be placed under the control of the state, claiming that things were being preached in some Muslim places of worship that were not in keeping with German values.

Kauder's remarks in the interview came against the backdrop of the recently finalized AfD manifesto, which contains the sentence, "Islam is not part of Germany." The AfD is facing criticism from many quarters that its anti-Islam stance is aimed at creating divisions in German society.

tj/msh (KNA, AFP, Reuters)