Merkel hits back at minister who denied Islam's place in Germany


Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated her stance that Muslim residents and their religion are part of Germany, hitting back at comments from new Interior Minister Horst Seehofer denying Islam's place in the nation's Judeo-Christian history.

"Islam does not belong to Germany," Seehofer, the head of Merkel's sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), told Friday's Bild tabloid. "The Muslims who live here are naturally part of Germany. That does not of course mean that we therefore give up our country-specific traditions and customs out of false consideration," the former Bavarian premier told the daily.

Germany's 4 million Muslims "belong to Germany, just like their religion belongs to Germany," responded Merkel, who has often clashed with the former Bavarian premier on immigration issues. "We must do everything we can to make coexistence between the religions as positive as possible," she said.

During Merkel's third term in office, Seehofer was a major thorn in the chancellor's side over the her decision to allow hundreds of thousands of refugees to enter the country in 2015.
Bavaria is Germany's southern-easternmost state and its border with Austria meant it bore the brunt of the refugee influx from the Balkans.

Seehofer left his role at the helm of Bavarian government to serve as interior minister Merkel's new grand coalition cabinet, vowing to bring his stricter stance on immigration and the deportation of failed asylum seekers to Berlin.

Seehofer said he wants to convene Islam meetings to discuss the problems that Muslims experience integrating into German society.

"We have to sit down with the Muslim associations round one table and seek out a dialogue and, where necessary, expand it," he told Bild. "My message is: Muslims have to live with us, not next to or against us. In order to achieve that, we need mutual understanding and consideration. That can only be achieved when we speak to each other."    (dpa)


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