4 March 2011

Germany’s new Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich reignited a bitter debate over Islam this week after he said the religion did not “belong” in the country, prompting a call on Friday for him to give up charge of the government’s Islam conference.

During his first public appearance as interior minister on Thursday, Friedrich responded to questions by reporters about the shooting of two US airmen in Frankfurt by an alleged Islamist with an inflammatory statement. He said Muslims living in Germany were part of society, “but that Islam belongs in Germany is something that has no historical foundation.”

On Friday, Free Democrat (FDP) and Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger criticized her new fellow cabinet member and member of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU). Meanwhile a chorus of opposition politicians lambasted Friedrich, among them centre-left Social Democrat Dieter Wiefelspütz who characterized his statement as “rubbish.”

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