Germany's new interior minister, Horst Seehofer, from the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) recently said: "Islam does not belong in Germany. Germany is shaped by Christianity." The statement quickly got reactions from democrats and racist groups. Before becoming interior minister, Seehofer was the CSU's chair and the minister president of Bavaria. He left these positions after his party suffered a major defeat in the most recent federal elections. I wish he had not become interior minister since he seemingly assumes that fighting the Alternative for Germany (AfD) means adopting the party's discourse. However, Germany currently needs an interior minister who can embrace Germany as a whole despite parties like the AfD instead of simply copying them.
Currently, the safety of Muslims in Germany is being threatened by far-right, racist and neo-Nazi groups and the PKK terrorist group. Neo-Nazis and PKK militants have been organizing attacks on mosques as well as Muslims' offices, associations and houses. The PKK has publicly declared that it will exacerbate its attacks on Muslims, while the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has announced that more assaults on Muslims are expected.
How can the interior minister, who has played the greatest role in protecting Muslim German citizens and Muslims living in Germany for decades, not realize he is adding fuel to the fire with his latest remark? Anyone asserting that Germany is shaped by Christianity has either missed their history lessons or has a false understanding of it. Aside from Muslims, this is a great injustice to Jews, who constitute a major component of German culture. And in today's Germany, this argument is surely a great injustice to Muslims.
Such an incorrect sentiment is unacceptable for Germany and Europe. Islam belongs in both Europe and Germany. For instance, I am both European and Muslim as a former member of the European Parliament. Fortunately, German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed Seehofer. Explaining that German culture has been shaped by Christianity and Judaism, Merkel also emphasized that around 4 million Muslims currently live in Germany. During a press briefing in Berlin, Merkel said Muslims and Islam also belong in Germany.
Alongside Merkel, many Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politicians reacted to the interior minister. CDU Secretary General Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said: "Freedom of religion undoubtedly belongs in Germany, just as Muslims in Germany, together with their faith, belong in our country." The minister of state for migration and integration minister, Anette Widmann-Maund, also reacted to Seehofer. Speaking to a newspaper, she said: "We cannot make any progress with such words. These words do not contribute to resolving the challenges we confront," explaining that the interior minister's words undermine societal peace. Opposition parties also harshly criticized Seehofer. The Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Greens and the Left's reactions were expected due to their political stances. But the AfD's criticism reproaching Seehofer was the most meaningful. Far-right AfD leader Alexander Gauland accused the interior minister of copying the AfD's discourse. Gauland said: "We have been stressing for a long time that Islam does not belong in Germany," adding that the CSU is copying the AfD's perspectives regarding this and other issues concerning homeland security. Gauland is actually telling the truth. Seehofer aspires to increase his party's vote share in the Bavarian state elections by copying the AfD.
The saddest part is that the interior minister of Germany, a country setting an example for the EU, is supporting discriminatory activities in a times of rising attacks on Muslims in Germany. Actually, he was supposed to resign his office after making such a scandalous statement.
With Seehofer, Muslims have been disappointed by Germany once again. On the other hand, Merkel's stance was pleasing, which showed that she is a chancellor who truly represents everyone in Germany. Hopefully, the interior minister has learned a valuable lesson.
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