Tysklands nye innenriksminister, Hans-Peter Friedrich fra CSU, har sjokkert ved å si åpent at islam ikke er en del av tysk historie. Derved har han brutt et tabu.
Tysklands president, Christian Wulff, snakket i fjor om at islam utgjør en del av tysk historie, og dette er den offisielle versjon. Men den er kommet under trykk, spesielt fordi Thilo Sarrazin kom med sin sjokkerende bok: Tyskland avskaffer seg selv, der han snakket rett fra leveren.
Siden har ikke Tyskland vært det samme, og nå følger innenriksministeren opp, bare dager etter at han ble utnevnt.
Opposisjonen og muslimske talsmenn er i sjokk.
– Å si at islam hører hjemme i Tyskland er ikke noe faktum som støttes av historien, sa Friedrich.
His views flatly contradicted those of Germany’s conservative President, Christian Wulff, who, in an attempt to defuse an increasingly bitter integration row, proclaimed in a keynote speech last year that Islam «belongs to Germany» precisely because of its large Muslim population.
Mr Friedrich, who belongs to the Bavarian wing of Ms Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats, a group known for its opposition to Muslim immigration, insisted in a speech on Saturday that his stance was meant to bring «society together and not polarise it».
He said he looked forward to discussing his position with Germany’s predominantly Turkish Muslims at a government-sponsored Islamic conference at the end of the month. The minister was appointed a day after Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Germany’s popular Defence Minister, was forced to resign over a scandal in which he was found to have plagiarised large sections of his university doctorate.
In an attempt to minimise the damage, Chancellor Merkel quickly reshuffled her cabinet, giving Thomas de Maizière, her trusted Interior Minister, the Defence Minister’s job and importing Mr Friedrich to take over the Interior Ministry. Although his Bavarian conservatives have already called for a halt to Muslim immigration, few expected the new Interior Minister to spark controversy so quickly.
Lamya Kaddor, formannen for Tysklands liberale islamske foreningen, karakteriserer innenriksministerens uttalelser som «et slag i ansiktet på alle muslimer». Kaddor hevder at Friedrich tar politisk og historisk feil, og mener at kommentarene både er farlige og underminerer dialogen med muslimske grupper.
Også Sosialdemokratene, De grønne og medlemmer av regjeringskoalisjonen kristiserer Friedrich: – Islam har vært en reell del av Tyskland i flere generasjoner nå; det er lite hjelpsomt å benekte dette, sier det liberale parlamentsmedlemmet Hartfrid Wolff.
The row is the latest episode of a long-running debate about immigration, integration and assimilation, which erupted last autumn following publication of an inflammatory book entitled Deutschland schafft sich ab («Germany is doing away with itself») by Thilo Sarrazin, a former Federal Bank board member, who resigned his post following the furore his book caused.
Mr Sarrazin argues that Germans will soon be outnumbered by an underclass of semi-criminal Muslim immigrants, who have too many children, speak little or no German and depend on welfare payments to survive. His book has sold some 1.3 million copies, making it one of the biggest-selling titles in post-war Germany.
The debate has provoked headlines for months, yet it has so far been dominated by politicians, with German Muslim representatives taking only a back seat.
Last year, Ms Merkel proclaimed that attempts to build a multicultural society had «utterly failed». Her views were echoed by David Cameron in a speech he made in Germany last month.
Mr Friedrich’s remarks were a clear sign that the hardline stance on integration taken by Ms Merkel’s conservatives is becoming more strident.