BERLIN – The German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has contributed to the debate waged last week on the role of Islam in the central European country, voicing his strong support to the Muslim community as part of the German society
“Germany should stand by former German President Christian Wulff’s assertion that Islam is now also part of Germany,” Steinmeier told Der Spiegel, Politico reported Tuesday.
The President also urged politicians to focus on discussing policies to boost integration rather than fighting over headlines.
Steinmeier comments came in response to his Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s controversial interview which sparked debate last week over the role of Islam in Germany.
Seehofer told Bild newspaper on Friday that he doesn’t believe the Islamic faith is part of German culture.
“Islam does not belong to Germany. Germany is characterized by Christianity. These aspects include shops being closed on Sundays, church holidays and rituals such as Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas,” said the Christian Social Union (CSU) Bavarian leader.
Seehofer’s comments were met with approval by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) but vehemently condemned by other major political parties.
In addition to Steinmeier, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also taken a similar approach to the debate, saying on Friday: “There are now four million Muslims living in Germany and they practice their religion here and these Muslims belong to Germany, as does their religion — Islam.”
Germany has Europe’s second-biggest Muslim population after France, and Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.
It has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some five percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.