The majority of Germans have limited contact with Muslims and know very little about their religion, according to a new poll.
According to the survey drawn up for dpa news agency by pollsters YouGov, 62 percent of non-Muslim respondents said there were no Muslims in their private circle of friends and family.
The survey’s release on Friday followed the political tensions unleashed in the country after about 1 million mainly Muslim refugees entered the nation last year, fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
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It’s about 60 years since migrants from Turkey began arriving in Germany to help fill the acute gaps in the nation’s workforce resulting from the country’s so-called economic miracle after World War II, with about 4 million Muslims now living in the nation.
The country’s right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has been making big gains in a series of recent elections, has now adopted an anti-Islam stance as part of its new manifesto.
In addition to declaring that “Islam does not belong in Germany”, the AfD’s platform called for a ban on minarets.
In the meantime, support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrat-led political bloc has slumped since the mass influx of refugees began eight months ago as many of its voters have switched to the AfD.
The AfD’s new manifesto and its concerns about Islam sparked widespread condemnation from political and religious leaders.
Islam ‘part of Germany’
But in an interview on Thursday with the daily Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung, Volker Kauder, a key Merkel ally, said while Muslims were part of German life, Islam had not shaped Germany “historically and culturally”.
“But just so there is no misunderstanding: The Muslims themselves are a part of Germany, there is no question about it,” said Kauder, who heads the parliamentary group of the Christian Democrats and their Bavarian-based allies, the Christian Social Union.
While insisting that freedom of religion was enshrined in the nation’s constitution, Kauder said that Islam also took on forms “that we can never accept in Germany”.
Still, the YouGov results showed there was much more contact between younger Germans than the older generation with about half those surveyed aged between 18 and 24 saying Muslims were among the people they knew.
But 52 percent of non-Muslim Germans told YouGov they had little knowledge of Islam with every fifth person surveyed saying they knew nothing about the religion.
At the same time, however, 68 percent of Muslims described their knowledge of Christianity was good or very good.