German president sparks debate with Islam comments
President Joachim Gauck has said in a newspaper interview that Muslims living in Germany are more definitively a part of the country than the religion of Islam, a slight change from the stance of his predecessor.
When asked about a quote from the previous president, Christian Wulff – who had said that “Islam is now also a part of Germany” – Gauck told the newspaper Die Zeit that he would not have used this particular sentence, adding “but I do welcome the intent behind it.”
“I would have simply said that the Muslims who are living here are a part of Germany,” Gauck said in an interview published in the current edition of the weekly paper. He elaborated further, defining what he considers the most important factor for people with immigrant roots to be part of Germany.
“Anybody who has come here and doesn’t just pay their taxes, but also likes to be here, partly because there’s a level of justice and freedom not available in their country of origin, they are all one of us; so long as they adhere to our basic rules,” Gauck said.
But more generally, the president said he thought “one-sentence formulations on belonging” were problematic, “and especially when they concern something as delicate as religion.”
The co-leader of the Green Party, Cem Özdemir, said in the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper on Friday that he “can not understand this differentiation between Islam and practicing Muslims,” adding that if Gauck considers Muslims a part of Germany, “then of course Islam is part of Germany too.”