Germany’s Interior Minister said on Friday that Islam was not part of society and national identity, taking the opposite of Angela Merkel two days after the investiture of her government in pain.
“No, Islam does not belong to Germany, Germany is marked by Christianity, non-working Sundays, Christian holidays and rituals like Easter, Pentecost and Christmas are part of it,” Horst said. Seehofer, boss of the very conservative CSU, Bavarian ally of the CDU of Mrs Merkel.
In an interview with the popular daily Bild, if he believes that Muslims living in the country “obviously belong to him”, they should not live “next to or against” the Germans.
These remarks are at odds with those of Ms. Merkel who in 2015 had estimated that “Islam now belongs to Germany”, thinking to settle the debate in a country with four million Muslims, mostly immigrant workers who came to the country. request from the authorities or their descendants, mainly of Turkish origin.
The Chancellor’s stance also came as she opened the country to hundreds of thousands of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees.
The exit of Mr Seehofer also risks to pass with the Social Democrats (SPD), essential allies for the survival of the fourth government of Mr Merkel. But the latter came into office Wednesday after six months of post-election imbroglio.
And the SPD has planned a milestone of its participation in the grand coalition, or GroKo, in 18 months. An exit from it would probably mean early elections.
For the observers, Mr Seehofer seeks above all to regain the conservative electorate who fled in the legislative elections in September to the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) and whose historic score has deprived the camp of Ms. Merkel of a clear majority to govern.
And his party, the CSU, is engaged in a fight to retain the absolute majority it holds in Bavaria during the regional 14 October. The AfD hopes to lead a hard life with a double-digit score.
“The Chancellor should not appreciate the relaunch of this debate,” says the daily Die Welt in a comment on its website, “but it’s more than semantics, it corresponds to the strategy of Seehofer: he wants to regain the voters of the AfD even if it risks a big dispute from the beginning of GroKo “.
Although the SPD did not immediately react to the Interior Minister’s remarks, on the side of the AfD, Mr Seehofer was accused of electioneering plagiarism.
“This is the first episode of a long series before the Bavarian regional: Horst Seehofer reads the program of the AfD,” responded Beatrix von Storch, a figure of anti-Islam training.
“This message from Horst Seehofer comes, word for word, from our program”, also noted the elected André Poggenburg, who has just been forced to resign from some of his functions in the far-right party for having qualified Turks of “cumin dealers” and “camel drivers”.
Green MEP Jürgen Trittin denounced a “fatal position” accusing the minister of “campaigning for the AfD” and “divide” the country. “We know this way of speaking, that is to say + I have nothing against foreigners but … +”, he said.
The position of the Seehofer is nevertheless not a surprise. Very hostile to the migration policy of Ms Merkel, who opened Germany in 2015 and 2016 to over a million migrants, he snatched in the current government contract a ceiling of 180,000 to 220,000 asylum seekers hosted by year.
He also provoked controversy by adding the title “Minister of the Interior” to the title of “Heimat”, a concept that is difficult to translate between land and land that was diverted under Nazism.