German banker's book sparks fury over Islam, Jewish views

Berlin, Germany - German central bank board member Thilo Sarrazin unleashed a storm of protest Monday, after the launch of his book in which he wrote Islamic culture was "responsible" for the failure of Muslim immigrants to integrate.

The 65-year-old former finance minister of the city-state of Berlin, who is notorious for his blunt views on immigration and the welfare state, has also caused outrage by espousing the view that there is a "Jewish gene."

His book, Germany Abolishes Itself: How We Are Risking The Future of Our Nation, shot to the top of the German book charts as his own Social Democratic Party (SPD) instigated proceedings to have him thrown out of the party.

Speaking at the launch in Berlin, Sarrazin said that Muslims had - alone amongst migrant groups - singularly failed to integrate into society and were more of a burden than a benefit.

"All major cultural and economic problems have concentrated themselves in the group of 5-6 million migrants from Muslim countries," he said.

"It is Islamic culture that is responsible," he said, adding that in his view the majority of Muslims that immigrated to Germany were "anti-education."

"With immigrants from Eastern Europe, India, Vietnam ... after the first generation there are no integration problems ... they are indistinguishable from the German population," he said.

The German welfare state was also to blame, Sarrazin said, as it allowed the situation where individuals could, without working, obtain a basic income that "far overshadowed" what they could earn by working in their own countries.

In an interview published on Sunday, Sarrazin also addressed a sub-theme of his book, which is that new genetic research shows that intelligence in humans is up to 80 per cent inherited.

The banker has used the genetics theory to suggest that all segments of society cannot expect equal outcomes, even if consistently more money is spent on education and training - a view in direct contradiction to one of the central planks of Germany's post-war social welfare state.

Both positions have unleashed furious reactions from Muslim and Jewish groups.

Ayman Mazek, General Secretary of the Muslim Central Council, an umbrella organisation, said Monday that Sarrazin's views were "irresponsible, dangerous and wrong.

Burhan Kesici, general secretary of the German Islam Coucil, said that Sarrazin's comments would strengthen Islamophobia.

"We have so far only heard this sort of thing from the far-right. Never from the political centre, and never from the SPD," he said.

Stephan Kramer, secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, earlier said that Sarrazin was "in the grip of a race mania."

Sarrazin later issued a statement denying that the remarks made about the existence of a "Jewish gene" were meant to be interpreted as a racist value judgement.

"When I said that 'all Jews share a particular gene' I did not express myself precisely enough," he said.

"There is no value judgement connected with this ... It is not a racist statement."

Chancellor Angela Merkel called his comments "utterly unacceptable."

However in a statement issued by the Bundesbank Monday, chairman Axel Weber stopped short of calling for Sarrazin to step down.

The bank said that Sarrazin had "damaged the image" of the institution, and that it would consult with him before making any further steps.

Sarrazin, born in 1945 and of Hugenot ancestry has been in public service since the 1970s, active in the finance ministry, the labour ministry, as well as the agency that oversaw the transfer of the assets of the former East Germany. He was instrumental in establishing Germany's currency union following the fall of the Berlin wall.

However his fiscally conservative views and apparent antagonism to immigrant populations have kept him on the right-wing of the centre- left SPD.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel said Monday that Sarrazin's views had now "put him outside the SPD and its values," and that he would be excluded from the party.

Sarrazin's statements "approached Nazi racial purity theories," Gabriel said.

"His views are racist," he added.