Merkel ally promotes ‘German Islam’ as means to integrate refugees into liberal EU society

© Wolfgang Rattay
The German finance minister has called for the creation of “German Islam” that will rest on the principles of tolerance and European liberalism and will serve as means by which to integrate millions of refugees into European society.

The influx of migrants over the past years is forcing Germans to reconsider their social priorities, Wolfgang Schaeuble wrote in an editorial in German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. The minister urged his countrymen to understand what is important to them and how they want to live in a society which needs to integrate millions of refugees. 

In the editorial, the close ally of the German chancellor rejected the violence that surrounds the migrant debate in German society.

Recalling unfortunate cases of sexual attacks in Germany and terrorist atrocities committed by members of the refugee community, Schaeuble urged for German liberal values to triumph in times of sorrow.

“Without a doubt, the growing number of Muslims in our country today is a challenge for the open-mindedness of mainstream society,” the Minister wrote. “We should not, in this more tense situation, allow an atmosphere to emerge in which well-integrated people in Germany feel alien.”

At the same time, the minister rejected xenophobic attacks against refugee camps and widespread anti-migrant feelings in Germany. Schaeuble wrote that despite a presence of xenophobia the majority of Germans would say: “Yes, we want you [migrants] to be among to us.”

The Minister acknowledged that while many Muslims are “completely non-religious,” occasionally Islam’s compatibility with liberal democracy and human rights remains “quite hard.”

Yet “German Islam” is a possibility, the Minister said citing the 10-year-old work of the German Islam Conference which seeks to erase cultural and religious divides within German society.

“We wanted and want, especially in view of such diverse origins of Muslims in Germany, to promote the development of a German Islam, the development of self-esteem of Muslims living as Muslims in Germany, in a free, open, pluralistic and tolerant order,” Schaeuble wrote.

According to revised statistics, 890,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year, while previous estimations put the number at 1.1 million.

Chancellor Merkel has been sticking to a policy of open borders, using the catchphrase “we can do this” to persuade the public that Germany will manage the wave of newcomers.

But both the phrase and Merkel’s policy have increasingly fallen under fire from the public and opposition parties, more so after a spate of attacks on civilians in late July, two of which Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility for.

The number of German citizens supporting the current Chancellor and her policies has also been dropping by the day. The migrant crisis and the integration of a large number of refugees have placed question marks over Merkel’s re-election prospects.

Merkel, first appointed as Chancellor in November 2005, is currently serving her third term in office. The next German federal elections are expected to be held between August 27 and October 22, 2017. Merkel is expected to announce her decision on her potential run for chancellorship next spring.