CAIRO - Showing a more tolerant face towards Islam, Germany's President Joachim Gauck has assured Muslims that they are part and a parcel of Germany society.
We may be strangers in culture, but we have many things keeping us together, Gauck said during a visit to the Turkish Åehitlik Mosque in Berlin, The Journal of Turkish Weekly reported on Tuesday, October 23.At the Muslim worship place, the German President was welcomed by Ender Ãetin, the head of the mosque's foundation, alongside several Turkish diplomats.
German President Sparks Islam DebateIslam Belongs to Germany: President
I am here by my heart, Gauck said.
Not by what others have said, but by my own heart. That message is received.
He urged Germans not to be afraid of variety, almost reviving the concept of multiculturalism.
The visit to Åehitlik mosque, the first ever by the German President, comes as Muslims and their religion are put at the core of heated debates in Germany.
Germany is believed to be home to nearly 4 million Muslims, including 220,000 in Berlin alone.
The country is Europe's second-biggest Muslim population after France, and Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.
Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the Muslim minority in the European country.
Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.
Germany's daily Der Spiegel had warned last August that the country is becoming intolerant towards its Muslim minority.
Contradicting with his former statements on Muslims, the German President said he was committed to the attitude that Islam is part of German society.
Gauck also said he was pleased to see the youth associated with the mosque treating Berlin as their own country.
The German leader also reiterated commitment to the attitude represented by his predecessor Christian Wulff.
Wulff had stated during his term that Islam belonged to Germany and is part and parcel of German society alongside with the traditional faiths of Christianity and Judaism.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also said that Islam is part of Germany, calling for more tolerance toward the Muslim community in the European country.
Last June, President Gauck sparked a storm of criticism after saying that Muslims are more definitely a part of the country than the religion of Islam.
While not using the exact words of the previous president, Gauck had made his sentiments about Muslims known.He said, 'You are clearly a part of this society,' Ãetin, the head of the mosque's foundation, told reporters.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net