German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that "there are four million Muslims living in Germany" and "they can live their religion here, too," Deutsche Welle reported.
Although the politician acknowledged that Germany was formed by Judeo-Christian traditions, she stressed that Islam is also a part of the country.
"These Muslims belong to Germany and in the same way their religion belongs to Germany, that is to say Islam," the German head of state said, adding that the form of any religion practiced on German soil shouldn't contradict the country's Constitution.
Merkel's comment came a day after new Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in an interview with German newspaper Das Bild that "Islam doesn't belong to Germany."
"No. Islam does not belong to Germany," Seehofer said. "Germany has been shaped by Christianity," the politician stressed, adding, however, that "the Muslims who live with us are, of course, part of Germany."
Seehofer's remark has also caused strong reaction in the Social Democratic Party (SPD), with three German ministers demanding practical steps toward integration, rather than mere debates.
For instance, Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley said in an interview with the Rheinische Post that "theoretical debates have been going on for long enough."
She stressed that the government should pay more attention to practical steps aimed at ensuring peaceful coexistence in the country.
Family Minister Franziska Giffey supported this point of view by saying that "local debates do not help at all." In an interview with broadcaster ZDF, she stressed that concrete measures should be taken to ensure peace and integrate all German residents in society regardless of their origin or faith.
For his part, Labor Minister Hubertus Heil stressed the importance of creating "fair chances and clear rules" for newcomers and warned against any form of discrimination and extremism.
"The debate that Horst Seehofer is continuing serves no substantive purpose and is being used to create a particular atmosphere ahead of the state election in Bavaria," the politician told Funke Media Group.
Horst Seehofer, a former leader of Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), allied with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has always had a tough stance on the migration issue. Since 2015, he has been well-known as a severe critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy toward migrants.
The debate about whether Islam belongs to Germany or not has also caused vivid reactions among social media users.
Some of them agreed with Seehofer's remark and criticized Angela Merkel for her response.
Und somit gehören laut Merkel und ihrer Vasallen auch Kinderehen, Beschneidungen/Verstümmelungen von Mädchen, Unterdrückung von Frauen….zu Deutschland.— Targanina (@Targaninas) 16 марта 2018 г.
And thus, according to Merkel and her vassals, child marriages, circumcision / mutilation of girls, oppression of women… belong to Germany.
fr merkel gehört hoffentlich recht bald auch nicht mehr zu deutschland 🖕— nuschiforever (@nuschiforever) 16 марта 2018 г.
Hopefully, Mrs. Merkel won't be a part of Germany soon anymore, too.
Frau Merkel,möchten Sie auch kopftuch tragen?— Gabor Kovacs (@GKovacs01) 16 марта 2018 г.
Mrs. Merkel, would you like to wear a headscarf as well?
Zeigt dich wieder, das Frau Merkel wirklich jeden Kontakt zur Wirklichkeit verloren hat. Erschreckend zu sehen das Sie wirklich keine Ahnung hat was in Deutschland vorgeht — schade— Jan Weder (@xrax100) 16 марта 2018 г.
It's evident again that Mrs. Merkel has really lost all contact with reality. Terrifying to see that she really has no idea about what's going on in Germany. Too bad
Others supported Merkel's point of view that Islam belongs to the country.
Wenn über 8Mio Moslems in 🇩🇪leben und arbeiten, Steuern zahlen, z.Tdie drecksarbeit machen die evtl ein deutscher nicht machen möchte,deren Kinder hier arbeiten um der älternden Bevölkerung in Deutschland die Rente zahlen werden,JA dann verdammt nochmal gehört der islam zu🇩🇪— A.Menderes (@AslanTuerkoglu) 16 марта 2018 г.
If over 8 million Muslims live and work in Germany, pay taxes, do the dirty work that Germans do not want to do; if their children work here so the aging population in Germany could be paid their pensions, then yes, damn it again, Islam belongs to Germany.
Klare Worte! Danke Frau Kanzlerin!— Jungheld (iuvenes heros) (@jungheld) 16 марта 2018 г.
Clear words! Thank you, Mrs. Chancellor!
Danke, Merkel! (unironisch)— Fogelvrei (@freedolinski) 16 марта 2018 г.
Thank you, Merkel! (Without irony)