Merkel: Get used to mosques

2010-09-18 22:41

Berlin - Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germans had for too long failed to grasp how immigration was changing their country and would have to get used to the sight of more mosques in their cities, according to a newspaper.

Germany, home to at least 4 million Muslims, has been divided in recent weeks by a debate over integration sparked by disparaging remarks about Muslim immigrants by an outspoken member of the country's central bank.

"Our country is going to carry on changing, and integration is also a task for the society taking up the immigrants," Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily.

"For years we've been deceiving ourselves about this. Mosques, for example, are going to be a more prominent part of our cities than they were before," she added.

The uproar sparked by the Bundesbank's Thilo Sarrazin, who argued Turkish and Arab immigrants were failing to integrate and swamping Germany with a higher birth rate, is one of several recent prominent disputes touching on religion and integration.

Switzerland sparked international condemnation last year when it voted to impose a ban on building minarets.

Religious disputes have erupted in the United States during the past few weeks over plans to build an Islamic cultural centre close to the site of toppled World Trade Centre.

Meanwhile ties between Berlin and Paris were strained this week by a terse exchange between Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy over France's expulsion of Roma migrants.