BERLIN | Thu Apr 19, 2012 9:23am EDT
(Reuters) – A leading conservative politician said on Thursday that Islam did not belong in Germany, fuelling tension at a conference on integrating Muslims that also debated a controversial Salafist campaign to hand out copies of the Koran across the country.
“Islam is not part of our tradition and identity in Germany and so does not belong in Germany,” Volker Kauder, head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, told the Passauer Neue Presse.
“But Muslims do belong in Germany. As state citizens, of course, they enjoy their full rights,” he added.
His remarks added to a highly charged nationwide debate about a campaign by an ultra-conservative Salafist Muslim group to hand out millions of free German translations of the Koran to non-Muslims.
The conference was one of a series hosted by the government to improve the integration of the four million Muslims living in Germany, about half of whom have German citizenship.
Many came from Turkey in the 1960s and 1970s and their hard work contributed to Germany’s post-war economic miracle. Germany has a population of about 81 million.