In a speech on October 22, 2014, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that she agreed with the statement of former German President Christian Wulff, that “Islam belongs to Germany.””Former German President Christian Wulff said: ‘Islam belongs to Germany.’ That is true. This is also my opinion.” — Chancellor Angela Merkel, January 12, 2015.Angela Merkel’s statement obscures the real problem: A growing proportion of Muslim citizens in Europe does not share the Western system of values, does not want to culturally integrate and seals itself off in parallel societies.” — Thilo Sarrazin, renowned former central banker and a member of the Social Democrats, January 20, 2015.“Islam is not a religion like Catholicism or Protestantism. Intellectually, Islam is always linked to the overthrow of the state. Therefore, the Islamization of Germany poses a threat.” — Alexander Gauland, AfD party leader for Brandenburg, April 17, 2016.”An Islam that does not respect our legal system and even fights against it and claims to be the only valid religion is incompatible with our legal system and culture. Many Muslims live according to our laws and are integrated and are accepted as valued members of our society. However, the AfD wants to prevent the emergence of Islamic parallel societies with Sharia judges.” — AfD Manifesto.”Anyone who believes Islam belongs to Germany should not hesitate to go one step further and declare: Sharia law belongs to Germany. Without Sharia law, there is no authentic Islam.” — Henryk Broder, German journalist, May 16, 2016.
Nearly two-thirds of Germans believe that Islam does not belong to Germany, according to a recent opinion poll, which also found that only 22% of Germans consider Islam to be an integral part of German society.In a similar poll conducted in January 2015, 37% of Germans said that Islam belongs to Germany, 15% more than now. The results indicate that German attitudes toward Islam are hardening after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow more than 1.1 million mostly Muslim migrants to enter Germany in 2015.
The poll has opened yet another chapter in the decade-long debate over the phrase, “Islam belongs to Germany.” The words were first uttered in September 2006 — at the time there were 3.5 million Muslims in Germany, compared to nearly six million today — by then Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.Speaking ahead of the first-ever German-Islam Conference, the first institutionalized dialogue between representatives of the German government and of Muslims in Germany, Schäublesaid: “Islam is a part of Germany and a part of Europe. Islam is a part of our present and a part of our future. Muslims are welcome in Germany.”
The phrase was repeated in October 2010 by Germany’s then president, Christian Wulff, during a keynote speech to mark the 20th anniversary of German reunification. Wulff proclaimed that “Islam belongs to Germany” because millions of Muslims now live there:
“Christianity doubtless belongs Germany. Judaism belongs unequivocally to Germany. This is our Judeo-Christian history. But now Islam also belongs to Germany (Der Islam gehört inzwischen auch zu Deutschland).”
Wulff then quoted the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who in his West-Eastern Diwan (West–östlicher Divan, 1819) wrote: “He who knows himself and others will understand: East and West are no longer separable.
Since then, a debate has raged over the increasingly contentious question of Muslim immigration, integration and the role of Islam in German society. The University of Bonnlaunched a research project entitled, “How much Islam belongs to Germany?” The Konrad Adenauer Foundation published a paper: “Which Islam belongs to Germany?” According to the head of the Lutheran Church in Germany, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, only “Democratic Islam”belongs to Germany.What follows is an abridged historical review of the phrase “Islam belongs to Germany.”
March 3, 2011. In his first press conference as German Interior Minister, Hans-Peter Friedrichsaid that Islam does not belong to Germany: “To say that Islam belongs in Germany is not a fact supported by history at any point.” He added that Muslim immigrants should respect the “Western Christian origin of our culture.” His comments set off a firestorm of criticism from the guardians of German multiculturalism.March 4, 2011. Wolfgang Bosbach, of the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU), defendedFriedrich: “I like politicians who say what they think. Islam is part of the reality of Germany, but it is not part of German identity.”
March 5, 2011. Alexander Dobrindt, the General Secretary of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel’s CDU, said: “Of course there are Muslims in Germany. But Islam is not part of the German mainstream culture (Leitkultur).” CDU parliamentary leader Volker Kauder said: “Islam has not shaped our society in the past and it does not do so today. Therefore, Islam does not belong to Germany.”May 31, 2012. The new German President, Joachim Gauck, distanced himself from Wulff’s comments: “The reality is that many Muslims live in our country. I would have simply said that the Muslims who live here belong to Germany.” He added: “Where has Islam shaped Europe? Did Islam experience the Enlightenment, or even a Reformation?”
January 12, 2015. Chancellor Angela Merkel, during a meeting in Berlin with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, declared: “Former German President Christian Wulff said: ‘Islam belongs to Germany.’ That is true. This is also my opinion.” She stressed the need to “strengthen the dialogue between religions because there is still too much ignorance.”
January 13, 2015. Hans-Peter Friedrich, the former interior minister, challenged Merkel’s claim that Islam belongs to Germany
“The Muslims who live in this country, who are committed to this country, belong to Germany, no question. There is nothing to deny and nothing to relativize. But I can see nowhere that Islam belongs to Germany. Islam is not a formative, constitutive element of the identity of our country.
“The issue revolves around the question of what is constitutive, of what makes the identity of this country. And the identity of this country, developed over centuries, is not Islam but a Christian culture, based on Christian and Jewish roots.
“Islam is not a defining element of the identity of this country. Anyone who travels through Germany can see this. They can see churches and paintings, they can listen to music that comes from many centuries of ecclesial roots; they can see art and architecture which are marked by Christianity.