'Islam shouldn't culturally shape Germany' - Alexander Dobrindt claims

A leading German politician has dug his heels in to the debate over Islam in Germany. In an interview, Alexander Dobrindt said he wasn't discriminating against Muslims, but that Islam "has no cultural roots in Germany."

Alexander Dobrindt, the leader of the Christian Social Union's (CSU) parliamentary party, defended against criticism on Wednesday that his conservative Bavarian party was seeking to marginalize Muslims while doubling down on the stance that "Islam is not part of Germany."

The comments by a high-ranking politician from the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) threaten to reignite a debate that the German government has been hoping to let peter out for weeks.

Read moreRefugee rift in Angela Merkel government sparks war of words


How successful is linguistic integration?

Three quarters of German-born Muslims grow up with German as a first language. Among immigrants, only one fifth claim that German is their first language. The trend of language skills improving with successive generations is apparent across Europe. In Germany 46 percent of all Muslims say that their national language is their first language. In Austria this is 37 percent, Switzerland 34 percent.


How do Muslims view interreligious relationships?

According to a 2017 study by Religion Monitor, 87 percent of Swiss Muslims have frequent contact with non-Muslims in their free time. In Germany and France it is 78 percent, while in the UK it's 68 percent and Austria, 62 percent. A large majority of Muslims in succeeding generations are found to have constant contact with non-Muslims, despite existing societal hurdles.


Do Muslims feel connected in Europe?

Ninety-six percent of French Muslims feel connected with their country. The percentage of Muslims feeling the same way is equally high in Germany, while Switzerland has the highest levels, at 98 percent. Yet despite its relatively longer history of institutional openness to religious and cultural diversity, fewer Muslims, (89 percent) report feeling close ties to the UK.


How important is religion in the daily life of European Muslims?

Muslims from immigrant families maintain a strong religious commitment which continues across generations. Sixty-four percent of Muslims living in the UK describe themselves as highly religious. The share of devout Muslims stands at 42 percent in Austria, 39 percent in Germany, 33 percent in France and 26 percent in Switzerland.


What percentage of Muslim students pursue a degree?

According to data, 36 percent of German-born Muslims finish their education by the age of 17, without pursuing further studies. In Austria too, this proportion is around 39 percent. On the other hand, owing to a more equitable school system in France, Muslims there register significantly better educational outcomes. Only one in ten Muslim students leaves school before reaching 17.


What percentage of Muslims are in the job market?

About 60 percent of all Muslims who moved to Germany before 2010 now hold a full-time job, while 20 percent work part-time jobs. The figures are similar to those of non-Muslims. Muslims in Germany had higher employment rates than in other European countries. In France, the unemployment rate among Muslims is 14 percent, far higher than the 8 percent reported for non-Muslims.


How widespread is the rejection of Islam?

More than one in four non-Muslims in Austria do not want Muslims neighbors. This percentage is remarkably high in the UK as well, at 21 percent. In Germany, 19 percent of non-Muslim respondents say that they would not welcome Muslim neighbors. The figure stands at 17 percent in Switzerland and 14 percent in France. Overall, Muslims are among the most rejected social group.


‘Muslims in Europe - Integrated but not accepted’

The information included in this picture gallery is from the Bertelsmann Foundation’s study titled ‘Muslims in Europe - Integrated but not accepted?’ Conclusions are based on a representative survey of more than 10,000 people in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and the UK. Muslim refugees who arrived in Europe after 2010 were not surveyed for the study.

What Dobrindt said

Speaking with Funke media group, Dobrindt said:

  • "Muslims who want to integrate into our society are part of our country, but Islam is not part of Germany."
  • Islam "has no cultural roots in Germany and with Sharia as a legal system, it has nothing in common with our Judeo-Christian heritage."
  • Islam "doesn't culturally shape our country" and "it should not" be culturally influential in Germany.
  • "No Islamic country on earth has developed a comparable democratic culture like the ones we know in Christian countries."
  • Dobrindt also defended a plan to dramatically limit refugee family reunifications, saying: "Refugees should return to their home countries whenever this is possible. Family reunifications can also take place in pacified home regions and not only in Germany."

Read moreMistrust and Islamophobia see dramatic rise in Germany's melting pot

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Merkel: 'Islam is a part of Germany'

Rift in German government: Dobrindt's comments come as Merkel attempts to smooth over rifts in her coalition government between the Social Democrats (SPD), her CDU and the CSU. The CSU and the SPD in particular have been butting heads over refugee policy, with the Bavarian conservatives attempting to take a more hardline approach. 

Seehofer stand off with Merkel: In March, CSU party head and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer sparked controversy when he said in an interview that Islam was not part of Germany. The phrase was a central pillar in the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party platform in last year's general election. Shortly after Seehofer's comments, Merkel told parliament that Islam was part of Germany.

Bavarian state election looming: The CSU has upped its conservative rhetoric in recent weeks as part of an effort to win back voters from the AfD ahead of state elections on October 14, having conceded a large number of votes to the far-right party in last September's national election.

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rs/rt (AFP, dpa, epd)

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