German Muslims have hit out at Chancellor Angela Merkel for suggesting that mosque minarets should not be higher than church steeples, saying her provocative remarks were politically motivated.
"We must be on guard against sparking artificial discussions for political purposes which have little connection with reality," Bekir Alboga, spokesman for the Coordination Council of Muslims, an umbrella organization for Muslims in Germany, said in a statement cited Thursday, December 6, by Reuters.
Merkel, a Lutheran pastor's daughter, told a congress of her conservative Christian Democrats that "we must take care that mosque cupolas are not built demonstratively higher than church steeples".
Alboga said he was worried that mosques could become a campaign issue in state elections coming up in some parts of Germany.
But he said that such remarks are weightless when it comes to building authorities.
"Comments like Chancellor Merkel's (about Mosques) ... take a back seat to the expert opinions of building authorities, who base their decisions on local conditions and consensus between the citizens and mosque communities," he said.
Mosque-building is a sensitive subject in Germany.
Merkel's fellow conservatives in Bavaria have been saying for months that minarets should not dwarf steeples. Local residents are up in arms about plans to build mosques in Berlin, Munich and Cologne.
Christians in Cologne do not want the city's skyline — now dominated by one of the world's largest cathedrals — to be altered by two tall minarets.
Alboga said Muslims and Christians have more important issues to deal with than arguing about the height of minarets and steeples.
"Parts of the world are on fire," he said. "Instead of putting those out we're fighting over secondary issues."
Islamophobic remarks have gained momentum after Merkel's conservative party came to power in November 2005.
In statements endorsed by Merkel's party last June, Germany's top cardinal warned against "uncritical tolerance" which could lead to Islam enjoying equal standing with Christianity in the country.
Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the head of the German conference of bishops, has expressed concern about religious freedom leading to all faiths being treated equally regardless of the size of their flock and their history.
Germany, the land of Pope Benedict's birth, is home to some 3.2 million Muslims, over half of whom are of Turkish origin.
Germany has Europe's second-biggest Muslim population after France.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Aralık 2007, 13:07