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Articles > Islam in mass media > German Chancellor Merkel joins iftar, calls Islam 'part of Germany'

“It is obvious that Islam is a part of Germany,” Merkel said in her speech at the iftar held at Villa Borsig, the official guest house of the German Foreign Ministry, in Berlin on Tuesday. Calling for more inter-religious trust and respect for Islam in Germany and across Europe, Merkel described Ramadan -- the holy month of Islam when Muslims fast during daylight hours -- as a time when Muslims reflect and examine their lives. Recalling the increase in the number of violent acts perpetrated in the name of different religions in recent years, Merkel said that “it is unfortunate that most of these acts are attributed to Islam.”

Merkel also said she does not approve of discrimination against German Muslims and opposes those who regard Muslims with suspicion because she considers that Islam is part of Germany. Merkel's pro-Islam statement comes after her clear repudiation of anti-immigration and anti-Islam marches led by a German group called Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) in January, when she first said that Islam belongs to Germany. Merkel accused PEGIDA and its representatives and supporters of having “hatred in their hearts.”

“Hatred, racism and extremism have no place in this country… We are a country based on democracy, tolerance and openness to the world,” Merkel was quoted as saying in mid-January. In her speech on Tuesday, while discussing attacks on mosques in Germany, Merkel said that incidents targeting places of worship are “a blow to all of us” because these attacks go against freedom of religion and democracy. She added that it is important not to remain silent about this issue.

During the iftar, Merkel was joined by Integration Minister Aydan Özoğuz, a German politician of Turkish origin, Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany (KRM) spokesperson Nurhan Soykan, Central Council of Jews in Germany (ZJD) President Josef Schuster, Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) President Heinrich Bedford-Strohm and Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK) President Alois Glück.

This was the first time Merkel has attended an iftar as German chancellor. Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert has also announced that Merkel is planning to host an iftar for the first time next year. Seibert said the iftar is expected to be held in the building of the Chancellery and will host representatives of Muslim civil society organizations in Germany. According to Seibert, the iftar will become an annual event.

Source: Today's Zaman

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