Angela Merkel Says No to 'Islam Law' Regulating Muslims

Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel during news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 4. Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has dismissed calls from high-ranking members of her own party to introduce a so-called "Islam law," regulating the religious practices of Muslims in the country.

Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) have seen support for their party decline over the chancellor's refugee policy which saw close to a million, mostly Muslim, refugees register in the country since the start of the crisis in 2015.

In the past week, two members of the CDU, deputy head Julia Klöckner and executive committee member Jens Spahn, called for specific legislation regulating the behavior of Muslims. The "Islam law" would include a mosque registry and require imams to take a language test and to give sermons in German.

Discussing mosques, Spahn said that authorities "did not know how many mosques there are in Germany, where they are or who finances them."

But Monday, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert distanced the German leader from the policy.

"Such a law is not now an issue for government business," he told reporters, according to Deutsche Welle. Ensuring religious freedom in Germany was "one of the central freedoms promised by our constitution," he said.

Merkel wasn't alone in her distaste for the idea. Another former CDU member, former secretary-general Ruprecht Polenz, described an "Islam law" as a "populist crackpot idea."

The country's far-right populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) had taken significant support away from the CDU in the wake of Merkel's refugee policy. With a staunch anti-immigration message, the AfD saw support rise to over 15 percent at the end of 2015.

But amid infighting provoked by comments from party leaders that many viewed as racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic, the party has seen support drop back to around eight percent in latest opinion polling.

Some of the AfD's stances have been echoed by Merkel, including her support for a ban on full-face veils.

But ahead of the German federal election in September, the CDU is now facing a fierce fight from the left in the form of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which has seen its popularity surge since its nomination of Martin Schulz.