Who is central bank executive Thilo Sarrazin talking about when he accuses migrants from Islamic countries of unwillingness to integrate? Surely he can't mean my sister Ilkay, who celebrates Christmas every year. She's not religious, but she thinks that her two daughters could feel disadvantaged if they didn't get any Christmas presents. He can't be talking about my colleague Yasemin, who works for the public television channel NDR. During the World Cup, she dressed in German colours and didn't miss a single match to support her favourite team. And he definitely can't mean my friend Helin, who is just finishing her PhD about women's rights in Turkey. Every time she returns from a foreign country she remarks how much she approves of the cleanliness in this country and feels very "German".
Countless people like them live in Germany. Some call themselves Muslim, some don't. But most of them wouldn't call themselves "well integrated". They never ask themselves this question. And a few of them don't even want to be "integrated" – not because they are Turkish or Muslim but because they don't want to be part of the mainstream, for reasons of politics or lifestyle.
Sarrazin's chitchat has nothing to do with their lives. And that's why they feel neither disgusted or insulted, as the Turkish-nationalist daily Hürriyet (for example) is stating. If there is a reason for getting angry, it is the way the public discusses Sarrazin's thesis over intelligence, heredity and migration: the mass media is filling pages with passages of his book and trying to check if Turkish people are really more stupid or if Jews have a specific genetic code. A second reason for getting angry is the support Sarrazin will receive among public opinion.
So will Sarrazin's intervention, as many politicians or journalists warn, lead us to separate ourselves from German society? Of course not. We are part of this country, whether he likes it or not. And even whether we like it or not.
It's not the first time we've realised that it is hard for a part of German society to accept us. We're tired of explaining ourselves and being the objects of a problem-discourse which goes from A (for al-Qaida) to Z ("Zwangsheirat", or forced marriage). It makes no difference if people – including people who feel liberal – ask me: "Is your religion really so violent?" (It depends on the interpretation. But first of all: I have no religion.) Or if they say: "I don't mean you when I'm talking about problems with migrants, you're different." (Not really. We're all different.) But we are accustomed to this kind of talk.
Sarrazin's intervention is not evidence that Germany hasn't changed. But to the extent that German politics, and conservatives, accept the fact of immigration, a new gap is emerging in rightwing politics. It's a gap that somebody like Sarrazin – who appeals to a middle class that fears the loss of familiar privileges – fills. This discussion plays into the hands of the self-appointed representatives of the Turkish community: people who are interested in trivialising their problems – the relationship between education, class membership and Islamic background, for instance. These self-appointed spokesmen will find it easy to answer their critics with a new riposte: "Stop Sarrazining!" It will do nothing to illuminate the problems faced by some in the Turkish community – not Ilkay, Yasemin or Helin – but too many others.
'All Jews share a certain gene': German banker sparks outrage with 'stupid' comments
By Michael Woodhead
Updated: 07:43 GMT, 30 August 2010
Fury: Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin has been accused of anti-Semitism and racism after his controversial comments
A leading member of Germany’s central bank has caused outrage by claiming that Jews are identified by a particular gene.
Thilo Sarrazin, who is on the board of the the Bundesbank in Frankfurt, said in a newspaper interview: ‘All Jews share a certain gene. Basques (Spanish separatists) have particular genes, that distinguishes them from others.’
German’s Jewish community today reacted with horror and accused him of anti-Semitism and attempted racial profiling.
‘Whoever tries to define Jews by their genetic make up succumbs to racism,’ said Stephan Kramer, secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Germany’s deputy Chancellor Guido Westerwelle accused the banker of stoking
‘Remarks that feed racism or even anti-Semitism have no place in
our political discourse,’ he said.
Another member of the German cabinet, defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, said Sarrazin had ‘overstepped the borders of provocation’.
German Chancellor Angel Merkel tonight condemned Sarrazin for making ‘stupid and pointless’ statements.
However, she conceded that improvements needed to be made to education standards of immigrant communities.
‘The key is mastering the German language. If we promoted and demanded that, then those coming to live in Germany would have great opportunities and they would enrich our lives,’ she said.
Sarrazin gave an interview to the respected Welt am Sonntag Sunday newspaper to promote his book entitled ‘Deutschland schafft sich ab’, which can be translated as ‘Germany does away with itself’
In the book he claims the country is on the road to ruin because of the influx of immigrants from the Middle East which would overwhelm the indigenous population and create a nation of ‘dunces’.
In particular he singles out Muslims for failing to integrate and having low IQs.
This influx, he claims, has been going on virtually since the war while the birthrate of native Germans has been steadily falling.
He asserts the result has been a ‘dramatic fall’ in literacy and numeracy. ‘Germany is becoming more stupid,’ he said.
‘Muslims immigrants don’t integrate as well as other immigrant groups across Europe. The reasons for this are apparently not based on their ethnicity,
but are rooted in their culture of Islam,’ he told Welt am Sonntag.
Germany has strict laws which ban inciting racial hatred. These include denying the Holocaust, using the Heil Hitler salute and displaying a Swastika.
Making anti-Semitic remarks is also an offence but Sarrazin’s comments - while distasteful - are unlikely to lead to a prosecution.
Last year Sarrazin was forced to apologise for accusing benefit claimants of not caring about their children’s educations and ‘producing new little headscarf-clad girls’.
A leading member of Germany’s Turkish community Kenan Kolat has called on
the Bundesbank to sack Sarrazin.
The bank has already ‘curtailed’ his duties for his previous extremist remarks.
Sarrazin has accused his critics of a knee jerk reaction to his views. ‘I am not a racist,’ he said.
The banker argues he is making public facts the government would rather keep quiet about.
‘I am addressing cultural differences not ethnic ones,’ he claims.
And he singled out Britain as an example of success in racial integration.
‘The reason is not ethnic but lies probably in the culture of Islam. One should compare (Germany) to the successful integration of Pakistanis and Indians in Great Britain,’ he said.
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