Participation Instead of Assimilation

Social participation is one of the immigrants’ most important demands. Most of them do not want to be integrated, if that means completely giving up their culture, language and religion. Most concepts, however, ignore the immigrants’ opinion and expectations altogether. “Do not threaten immigrants with sanctions and deportation”, asked the T_rkische Gemeinde in Deutschland (TGD) a few months ago. “The goals of integration cannot be achieved in any case by threats, but by providing equal opportunities in education and on the job market, by equal treatment, participation, co-operation and by the inclusion of the immigrants in the development process.” To date, not even the linguistic, cultural and religious variety of immigrants has been taken sufficient notice of in German society and in its social discourse, according to the TGD. Islam as a component of millions of immigrants’ religious identity represents a distinctive challenge to integration into German society, shaped as it is by its Christian past and present. “The legitimate fear of many Muslims, namely that integration would lead to assimilation, must therefore be pre-empted in the context of the integration process, with confidence-building measures”, insists the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. Conversely, two sets of developments have been observed so far. Some immigrants make do without their cultural-religious traditions, and thereby hope to secure faster social acceptance and integration. For another group, the fear of losing their traditions leads them to a renewed interest in religion.