Amid an ongoing debate on immigrants and their integration into German society, the country’s interior minister has called for more tolerance on the issue, urging the adoption of a “culture of welcoming” in the European nation.
“Without immigration, coupled with cosmopolitan attitudes and tolerance, our land would be much poorer. We have to invest in trust between people,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, told German media on the eve of a two-day visit to Turkey starting Wednesday.
Speaking to the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung for a piece published over the weekend, de Maiziere also called for a fair debate on Islam, without prejudices and embellishment.
Germany will remain Christian in essence, de Maiziere said, but added that Islam had become anchored as a religion in the country, which is home to around 4 million Muslims.
For the most part, immigrants are well integrated, de Maiziere told the German daily while demanding more efforts from other parts of the immigrant community, saying successful integration required will and active effort by individuals.
Heated immigration debates have recently flared in Germany, provoked most notably by a controversial and popular new book by a central banker and politician criticizing what he has termed the failure of Muslims in Germany to properly integrate.
In his book, “Germany Does Itself In,” Thilo Sarrazin said the country was being made “more stupid” by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim immigrants.
“The three immigrant groups with the largest educational deficit and the highest social welfare costs are also those with the highest rate of reproduction,” Sarrazin wrote, citing Turks, immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and those from the Middle East.
In a separate interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published Tuesday, de Maiziere said he found full body veils or burqas “completely inappropriate,” but called for caution on a ban such as the one France passed last week.
“If you ask, ‘Do you support a burqa ban?’ you get a different answer than when you ask, ‘Should the state prescribe a dress code?’ A judicial evaluation is necessary and a ban should be reasonable and feasible,” he said.