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Muslims Belong to Germany: Former German President

BERLIN – Rejecting growing anti-Islam sentiment in the country, former German President Christian Wulff spoke against far-right Islamophobia, stressing that Islam belongs to Germany.

“When 3 million Muslims live in our country, they belong together with their religion Islam to our country,” Wulff in Berlin, Anadolu Agency reported on Friday, April 22.

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Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Association in Germany (VAP) on Thursday, Wulff sharply criticized the draft party program of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party, which called for the banning of Muslim symbols, including minarets.

The anti-Muslim proposal triggered accusations to AfD of promoting “racist propaganda”.

The former president, from Christian Democrat party, opposed such calls, adding that Germany’s constitution guaranteed religious freedoms for all, including the right of Muslims to freely practice and teach their religion, and build their mosques.

“Whoever says I do not want Islam in Germany, I do not want Islam in Europe, he or she stands against our constitution,” he stressed.

“Whoever says I do not want any Muslim in Europe, he or she also cannot campaign for the rights of Christians in other parts of the world, and should not be surprised if others there say we don’t want Christians (…) or Jews here,” he added.

Wulff, who served as president from 2010 to 2012, was the first leading German politician, who publicly acknowledged that Islam belonged to Germany, as much as Christianity and Judaism.

His speech in 2010 had sparked a massive debate, but was later supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Our democracy, our Europe is endangered. It is endangered by Islamic State [Daesh], but [it is] also endangered by those within Germany who try to create new divisions among us,” he said on Thursday.

The far-right has benefited greatly from anti-immigrants public discourse.

In recent days, support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as well as the xenophobic and anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement has surged.

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.