Habeck said that Seehofer, who is also minister for sport, had alienated Muslim German football players with his past comments about Islam’s place in German society.
“When the sports minister says that Islam does not belong to Germany, then that should be taken as a clear rejection of Muslim players,” Habeck told the Rheinische Post newspaper.
Green Party chairman Robert Habeck (right) said that interior minister Horst Seehofer (left) was at fault in the Mesut Özil affair. Photo: DPA
“The signal that sends out to people of different backgrounds is fatal,” Habeck continued. “It gives them the feeling that they are ostracized and stigmatized in this country.”
Özil announced his retirement in a strongly worded statement last Sunday, accusing the German Football Association (DFB) of racism and lack of respect for his Turkish roots.
“I am a German when we win, and an immigrant when we lose,” wrote Özil in his statement.
III / III pic.twitter.com/c8aTzYOhWU
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 22, 2018
The accusations were the culmination of an ongoing debate about Özil this summer, which began when he posed for a photograph with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan at an even in London in April.
Özil, a German citizen who was born in Gelsenkirchen to Turkish parents, faced a barrage of criticism from politicians across the political spectrum at the time.
One of his fiercest critics was former Green Party chairman Cem Özdemir, who called Özil’s meeting with Erdogan “tasteless election campaign support”. Özdemir denounced Özil again this week, saying that the manner of the player’s retirement was “regrettable”.
The Green Party's Cem Özdemir, pictured here at a match at his hometown club VfB Stuttgart, has been critical of both Özil and the DFB. Photo: DPA
But Özdemir also echoed Özil’s criticism of DFB president Reinhard Grindel, saying that Grindel was “carving up our integration history”.
“Do the DFB want young German-Turkish players to go and play for Erdogan?” tweeted Özdemir on Monday.
Özils Foto bleibt falsch & seine Erklärung überzeugt nicht. Mindestens so desaströs ist das agieren der DFB-Spitze. #Grindel zerhackt unsere Integrationsgeschichte. Wollen die, dass bald junge Deutsch-Türken für Erdogan spielen? DFB braucht Neubeginn #özil
— Cem Özdemir (@cem_oezdemir) July 22, 2018
Seehofer’s party colleagues in the Christian Social Union (CSU), however, argued that the Özil affair was a separate issue to any broader debate on integration.
“The case of Mesut Özil is an individual case, so one shouldn’t generalize,” said Stephan Mayer, a CSU MP and parliamentary state secretary for the interior. “This is about one high-earning footballer. It has nothing to do with the integration of four million people with Turkish background.”