PARIS Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans debating Muslim integration to stand up more for Christian values, saying Monday the country suffered not from "too much Islam" but "too little Christianity."
Addressing her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, she said she took the current public debate in Germany on Islam and immigration very seriously. As part of this debate, she said last month that multiculturalism there had utterly failed.
Some of her conservative allies have gone further, calling for an end to immigration from "foreign cultures" -- a reference to Muslim countries like Turkey -- and more pressure on immigrants to integrate into German society.
Merkel told the CDU annual conference in Karlsruhe that the debate about immigration "especially by those of the Muslim faith" was an opportunity for the ruling party to stand up confidently for its convictions.
"We don't have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity. We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind," she said to applause from the hall.
Germany needs more public discussion "about the values that guide us (and) about our Judeo-Christian tradition," she said. "We have to stress this again with confidence, then we will also be able to bring about cohesion in our society."
References to the CDU's Christian roots and "Christian view of mankind" are standard in party convention speeches, but the phrases have become more frequent in recent months as Germany has been gripped by a heated debate over Islam and immigration.
DEFINING CULTURAL IDENTITY
The debate began last summer when former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin published a bestselling book arguing that Muslim immigrants were simple-minded welfare spongers who threatened the country's economy and its long-term future.
President Christian Wulff, a Christian Democrat, fueled the controversy last month by saying Islam "belongs to Germany" because of the four million Muslims who now live there.
Merkel has sharpened her rhetoric on immigration in recent weeks while avoiding the toughest tones coming from the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
But her party looks set to pass a resolution Tuesday stressing that German culture has Judeo-Christian roots, an idea that critics say aims to marginalize Islam.
The resolution says Germany's cultural identity is based on the "Christian-Jewish tradition," ancient and Enlightenment philosophy and the nation's historical experience.
"We expect that those who come here respect them and recognize them, while keeping their personal identity," it says.
The term "cultural identity" (Leitkultur) is the CDU's answer to multicultural policies favored by the left-wing opposition, especially the Greens, which Merkel said has failed.
Merkel said this identity did not limit religious freedom and the same principle must apply for Christians elsewhere, a clear reference to Christian minorities in Muslim countries.
"Of course, we're for freedom to practice one's faith," she said. "But that also means religious freedom cannot stop at our borders. That applies also for Christians in other countries around the world."
(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke in Karlsruhe, editing by Tim Pearce)