Angela Merkel Reuters 06/10/10
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking at a regional conference of the German Democratic Party, Oct. 6, 2010 Photo by Reuters
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Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that Muslims must obey the constitution and not sharia law if they want to live in Germany. The country is currently debating the integration of its 4 million-strong Muslim population.

In the furor following a German central banker's blunt comments about Muslims failing to integrate, moderate leaders, including President Christian Wulff, have urged Germans to accept that "Islam also belongs in Germany."

The debate comes against a backdrop of U.S. and British concerns over the threat of terrorist attacks by militant Islamists living in Germany, with Berlin attempting to tone down such fears.

Merkel faces corresponding discussions inside her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) about whether she is conservative enough, and the center-right leader's latest comments seemed directed at those who think Wulff went too far in appeasing the Muslims.

Wulff, who has a largely ceremonial role, used a speech on Sunday celebrating two decades of German reunification to urge harmonious integration of immigrants who, until a decade ago, were considered "guest workers" who would eventually return home.

But whereas the media stressed Wulff's comments about Islam, Merkel - the daughter of a Protestant pastor brought up in East Germany, who leads a predominantly Catholic party - said Wulff had emphasised Germany's "Christian roots and its Jewish roots."

German Christian Democrats often cite shared Judeo-Christian values rooted in the early history of Christianity because of sensitivities about the Holocaust.

"Now we obviously also have Muslims in Germany. But it's important in regard to Islam that the values represented by Islam must correspond with our constitution," said Merkel.

"What applies here is the constitution, not sharia," she stated.

Merkel said Germany needed imams "educated in Germany and who have their social roots here," and concluded: "Our culture is based on Christian and Jewish values, and has been for hundreds of years."

Opinion polls suggest many Germans sympathize with the views of an outspoken member of Germany's Bundesbank, Thilo Sarrazin, who, in speeches and a book, accused Muslims of sponging off welfare, refusing to integrate and achieving poor levels of education.

Sarrazin, who also offended Jews with comments about genetics, was forced to quit the central bank.

Merkel has tried to accommodate both sides of the debate, saying police should not be afraid of entering immigrant neighborhoods but also that Germans must accept mosques becoming part of their landscape.