The new government of Chancellor Angela Merkel is only a week old and it is already in turmoil. Yesterday (see our related coverage), the new Minister of the Interior, Mr Horst Seehofer, gave an interview in the German daily Bild during which he controversially claimed that ‘Islam does not belong to Germany’ in a clear threading of the line set by Ms. Merkel and certainly in contrast to the beliefs of her government coalition partner the left-wing Social Democrats.
Quickly wanting to put out the shimmering flame, Ms. Merkel stated in response that: "there are 4 million Muslims living in Germany."
"They can live their religion here, too. These Muslims belong to Germany and in the same way their religion belongs to Germany, that is to say, Islam."
<blockquote class="twitter-video" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">"<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Islam?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Islam</a> belongs to Germany."<br><br>Chancellor <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Merkel?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Merkel</a> reacts to a controversial interview by Interior Minister <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Seehofer?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Seehofer</a>: <a href="https://t.co/WmgAoOABOS">pic.twitter.com/WmgAoOABOS</a></p>— DW | Politics (@dw_politics) <a href="https://twitter.com/dw_politics/status/974666599797084160?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 16, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Ms. Merkel did not react to a question asking for a reprimand or even the removal of Mr. Seehofer.
Other ministers of the Social Democrats (left) criticized Mr. Seehofer for his remarks with Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley saying: "Theoretical debates have been going on for long enough."
"As far as our values are concerned, this is and remains the fundamental law, the basis of our coexistence."
The weekend’s newspapers commented extensively on Mr. Seehofer's remarks. The mostly conservative press in Germany concluded that he was using his new role as federal interior minister to score political points with the Bavarian electorate (which sees several smaller regional elections in the coming months and year) rather than to walk the line of the government.
The biggest daily Bild ran with the headline ‘Merkel widerspricht Seehofer, ungemutlicher Groko start’, which translates as ‘Chancellor Merkel contradicts Minister Seehofer, a rocky start for the new coalition government’.