Changes made to controversial German book criticizing Muslims

Berlin, Berlin - A best-selling book which criticized Muslim immigrants in Germany has been quietly altered by its author, former central banker Thilo Sarrazin, in the 14th printing, a newspaper said Saturday.

The changes slightly soften some of the statements that especially upset spokesmen for the Islamic community. Sarrazin stepped down from his post on the board of Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, after the book, Germany Abolishes Itself, caused a furore.

In a story to appear in print Sunday, the newspaper Welt am Sonntag said a sentence claiming migrants from the Middle East were a "genetic minus" for Germany had been completely scrapped.

The words "in the long term" were added to another controversial sentence, "In demographic terms, the enormous fertility of Muslim immigrants poses a threat to the equilibrium of culture and civilization in an ageing Europe."

The newspaper said the changes, which also affected a footnote and the dedication of thanks, were evident in a comparison of the September 1st printing with the 14th printing of the book.

Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) has begun proceedings to expel Sarrazin, who came to prominence as a finance minister of the state of Berlin. The retired politician made a national speaking tour to promote the book.

He has denied racism or right-wing views and has admitted he is worried that the book might encourage those views.

The book, which urges Germany to set up a selection procedure for immigrants and stop offering social welfare to immigrants who do not work, triggered calls from leading politicians for existing immigrants to quickly learn German and adopt German values.

Chancellor Angela Merkel responded that the idea of multiculturalism had been a failure.