angela merkel.jpg

Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected claims by the anti-foreigner Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that Islam was out of step with the nation's constitution and represented a danger to the country.

"In Germany, freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution and that is true for Muslims in our country," Merkel said on Monday at a joint press conference in Berlin with the leader of the world's biggest Muslim country, Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Merkel was speaking after Muslim leaders in Germany compared claims by the AfD that Islam was incompatible with the constitution to views promoted under the Hitler regime.

The chancellor said "the vast majority of Muslims practise their religion here in the framework of the constitution."

If that was not the case, then the security authorities would decide to place those in question under observation, she said.

"But as a rule the vast majority follow exactly what we have enshrined in the constitution," Merkel said.

Buoyed by successes in three key state elections last month, the AfD called at the weekend for banning minarets and burqas in Germany, warning of the threat of the Islamization of the country.

However, the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek hit back, telling state broadcaster NDR that for "the first time since Hitler's Germany there is a party that again seeks to discredit an entire religious community and threatens its existence."

Speaking at a government briefing, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the chancellor had repeatedly stressed "that it is clear that Islam undoubtedly has become part of Germany."

At the same time, members of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU) allies led the attack on the AfD from Germany's mainstream political parties.

"The AfD is becoming more and more radical," Franz Josef Jung, the CDU-CSU parliamentary group spokesman for churches and religious communities, told the daily Die Welt.

The anti-Islamic statements from the AfD were "highly dangerous" and aimed at dividing the nation, Carsten Sieling, the Social Democratic mayor of the northern German city of Bremen, told dpa.

Sieling currently heads the council representing the premiers of Germany's 16 states.

In weekend interviews, AfD deputy leader Beatrix von Storch and the party's leader in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, Alexander Gauland, warned about what they saw as the dangers of Islam.

"Islam is in itself a political ideology which is not compatible with the constitution," von Storch told the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

"We are in favour of a ban on minarets, on muezzins, as well as full veils," said von Storch who is also a member of the European Parliament.

"Islam is not a religion like Catholic or Protestant Christianity, but instead is always intellectually associated with a takeover of the state," Gauland told the newspaper.

"That is why the Islamization of Germany is a danger," said Gauland, who described Islam a "a foreign body" in Germany.

However, Mazyek insisted: "This is not an anti-Islam course, but an anti-democratic course."

Latest news

Serbia's EU negotiator says minority rights neglected

The head of the Serbia's European Union accession negotiation team, Tanja Miscevic, said in Novi Sad on Wednesday that minority rights had been neglected for many years and added that positive results in that regard cannot be achieved over night, the Beta news agency has reported. 

Scientists: Nearby star's 7 rocky planets are "best bet" for life

New analysis of telescope data shows a dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water, an international team of scientists announced Wednesday.

Croatian PM receives EIB Vice-President

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met on Wednesday with European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Dario Scannapieco for talks on the bank's contribution to a new investment cycle in Croatia and its support to the Croatian government to implement key projects, a press release from the government's office said.

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Denmark to charge man with blasphemy over burning Koran

Danish prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a rare blasphemy case against a man who videotaped himself burning a copy of the Koran.

South Africa to raise taxes for the wealthiest

South Africa will raise the income tax rate for the country's wealthiest to 45 per cent from 41 per cent, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced Wednesday.

Reformist Macron wins support of key centrist leader for French vote

France's reformist presidential hopeful, Emmanuel Macron, got a boost on Wednesday when he picked up the support of a party leader whose centrist constituency played a pivotal role in the last two presidential elections.

Amnesty International warns of nationalist rhetoric and hate speech in Croatia

Croatia continues to have problems with discrimination against ethnic minorities and with freedom of the media, while heightened nationalist rhetoric and hate speech during election time contributed to growing ethnic intolerance and insecurity in the country, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report on the state of human rights in the world in 2016/2017.

Official assigned to Wilders' security team held by Dutch police

A security official assigned to protect Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders is being held by police on suspicion of passing along classified information about the lawmaker to a Dutch-Moroccan crime gang.

100th anniversary of rescuing starving children marked

A special ceremony was held in Zagreb's Croatian National Theatre on Wednesday to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest humanitarian undertakings in the history of the Croatian people which saved children in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from famine in the last two years of World War I.

Italy's 'Red Thing' could make impact in election debut, polls show

Two polls conducted for RAI public broadcaster released Wednesday showed a new entity that split from Italy's ruling Democratic Party

Council: Nixing grants to "Novosti" would cause far-reaching implications

The Council for National Minorities, a state-level autonomous umbrella organisation for all ethnic minorities in Croatia, has stated that the cancellation of financial grants to the "Novosti", a newspaper of the ethnic Serb minority, would produce far-reaching implications and stir criticism for reduction of free speech and of freedom of expression of the most numerous ethnic minority.