Germany's new interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, was only sworn in three days ago and has already sparked a row in the country by saying that Islam was not a key part of the German way of life. Some four million Muslims live in Europe's leading economy.
Friedrich made the remarks during his first press conference as interior minister, when asked about the killing of two US airmen
at Frankfurt Airport on Wednesday. He said that while Muslims should be allowed to live in Germany, "Islam in Germany is not something substantiated by history at any point."
Friedrich was immediately criticized by Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger of the Free Democratic Party. "I hope that the new minister follows in his predecessor's footsteps and takes the responsibility for integration seriously and is committed to unity and not marginalization."
Another politician from her party, Hartfrid Wolff, added that "Islam has been a real part of Germany for several generations. Neither denying this fact, nor painting multiculturalism in romantic colors, is helpful."
Even harsher criticism was voiced by the opposition. Dieter Wiefelspütz of the Social Democratic Party referred to the Friedrich's comments as “rubbish", saying that the minister began his term with "poor judgment".
Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said Muslims can no longer be defined as a separate social group.
He also mentioned comments made in October by German President Christian Wulff, who called on Germans to recognize Islam as part of their country.
The issue of Islam is currently at the heart of Germany's political debate, which was sparked when former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin
published a book warning that Germany's future was in danger due to the growing number of uneducated Muslims refusing to integrate into society.
He also wrote that the Arab and Turkish communities were "making us stupid". Although Sarrazin was fired, he has received the support of conservative politicians, including the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.