Europe’s pot of Islamic debate is boiling

Germany, Cologne: Members of the group "Pro Cologne" hold a poster reading "Cologne's Cathedral also a mosque soon, as Hagia Sophia" as they demonstrate against the DITIB Central Mosque under construction of the Turkish Community in Cologne Ehrenfeld, western Germany, on February 2, 2011. (AFP Photo / Patrick Stollarz)
Germany’s new interior minister said Islam "does not belong" in the country. With thousands of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa fleeing the violence in their home countries, Europe is facing a profound rise in right-wing rhetoric.

­Germany’s interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who took office only last week in a cabinet reshuffle, provoked hot debate in the country by saying to journalists that Islam was not a key part of the German way of life.

"Islam in Germany is not something substantiated by history at any point," Hans-Peter Friedrich said, as cited by Reuters.

The new interior minister also said everyone residing in Germany must "first and foremost learn German," insisting that immigrants ought to be aware of their host country’s "Western Christian origins". He said his chief goal as interior minister was to "bring society together and not polarize it."

This statement comes as German authorities continue their investigation into the killing of two US soldiers at Frankfurt Airport on March, 2. The accused Kosovan gunman is suspected to have been driven by radical Islamic motives.

Friedrich’s statement provoked a heated debate in Germany which is currently inhabited by four million Muslims. The opposition instantly condemned the new interior minister’s views and the Islamic groups branded his words a "slap in the face for all Muslims", as cited by Reuters.

These moods are no revelation to Europe. Last year, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel proclaimed that attempts to build a multicultural society in the country had "utterly failed". Her views were echoed by Britain's leader David Cameron in a speech he made in Germany last month.

Intensifying right wing rhetoric can be explained by the arrival of thousands of immigrants from the Middle East and Northern Africa fleeing that violence, which “has inflamed a population already suffering from record unemployment and general economic hardship,” reports RT’s Daniel Bushell.

It is partly to do with economic situation in Europe,” says Bushell. “If you just look at the streets behind me, you will see a record number of beggars, both whites and also immigrants. That’s reflected in neighboring France: the extreme right National Front party will take first place in the first round of presidential elections here, according to a new poll. Marie Le Pen is expected to get 23 percent of the vote. That is ahead of President Nicolas Sarkozy, the incumbent, and the socialist opposition as well. The National Front party has called for three million non-Europeans to be sent out of the country to give flavor to their program.

Both here, and in Belgium, and in France also, there is a law expected to be passed next month which will ban the full face veil. The defenders of the law say it is to stop violent protest. For example, recently many protesters have worn veils to protest against various things and they say they are not targeting the Muslim population. Of course, many Muslims are up in arms about that. Neighboring Italy has perhaps been the worst affected. Many immigrants have fled there just to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa and the Middle East. As the report has shown, there has been an astonishing rise in the right-wing politics there as well,” Bushell concludes.