Swiss minaret ban stirs debate in Germany
Some German politicians spoke out against the ban while Angela Merkel's spokesman declined to comment.Berlin -- The banning of new minarets in Switzerland is a sign of a fear of Islam that also exists in Germany and must be "taken seriously," a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party said Monday.
To criticise the Swiss ban -- the outcome of a referendum on Sunday -- would be counterproductive, said Wolfgang Bosbach of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
It reflects a fear of a growing Islamisation of society, he said, "and this fear must be taken seriously."
In another newspaper, Hamburger Abendblatt, Bosbach, a high-ranking member of parliament, said he was not surprised by the result of the referendum, in which 57 percent of those who cast ballots supported a halt to minaret construction.
"For years I have noticed a big gap between public opinion and the authorities" on the issue, he said, recalling how the building of large mosques in Germany, notably in the Ruhr region, has provoked "strong opposition.”
He called for an open and frank debate over each mosque-building project, and for legislation in Germany to ensure that compromises can be reached that would satisfy all sides.
Merkel's spokesman Christoph Steegmans declined to comment on the result, telling AFP that Berlin was not "going to give advice to Switzerland."
He added that the government was certain that "freedom of religion is as important in Switzerland as it is here."
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, a senior member of the Catholic Church in Germany, said that the Swiss referendum result was "very worrying."
"Just because we Christians reject and condemn the restrictions imposed on religious freedom in Muslim countries, we must not only come to the aid of Christians there, but also protect the rights of Muslims here" said Zollitsch, who chairs the German Bishops Conference.