angela merkel.jpg
Photograph: EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

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."

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