‘Halal days’ for French Muslims

The fourth annual “halal days” were held May 18-21 and took place in schools, associations, and other Muslim organizations. The event aimed to “raise awareness about the importance of eating halal and eating well.”

Participating organizations agreed to open their doors to the public to better understand “the foundations of halal food, its culture, and its characteristics, as well as the processes used by all to guarantee that products are halal compliant.” Last year, 1,250 people signed up for the events.

“It was mostly attacks by the National Front on the halal market in 2014 that made us think of this event, to create a zone conducive to debate,” explained Lynda Ayadi, the director of the marketing company Heaven Strategy which organizes the “halal days.”

“We felt a strong demand from the Muslim community to provide perspective and information on the halal market,” she added. “More recently, this feeling was reinforced following the polemic sparked by the animal protection association L214’s video of French slaughterhouses, which they blamed for animal suffering.”

Ayadi insisted that the event’s goal was not to “spread propaganda,” and invited those who oppose halal “to come and participate in the debates.”

300 butchers adopt ‘non halal’ label

The association “Vigilance Halal” (or, Attention Halal) was founded in 2012 by the veterinarian Alain de Peretti, who also is a National Front supporter. The organization aims to combat ritual slaughter, namely halal, through public ad campaigns and other efforts.

“We are hidden because the State, the industry, and Islam are all in collusion. For economic reasons, France turns a blind eye and finances the Muslim religion and terrorism, all the while informed [of what it is doing],” said Lou Mantély, the association’s spokesperson.

The association has recently released a new label that vendors can adopt, “meat of French tradition.” This label was part of a major marketing campaign that began in 2016 and is aimed at 5,000 butchers. The aim is to aid “in the fight against communitarianism.”

“Our goal is that non halal becomes a commercial trend. This will force the slaughterhouses to do less ritual slaughter,” said Mantély. More than 300 butchers in France and Navarre have adopted the label.

 

 

 

Macron will ‘not recognize Palestine’

Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron has reiterated that he will not recognize Palestine as a state as it would hinder good relations between Israel and France

Prior to his election win, Macron said he backs a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that recognizing Palestine would cause instability and he would not risk France’s relationship with Israel to serve the Palestinian agenda. At a political rally Macron said: “Unilateral recognition of Palestine, right now, will undermine stability.” He added: “it will not change the lives of anyone on the ground, including Palestinians.”

Legislative elections: The Collective Against Islamophobia(CCIF )founder candidate in Sarcelles

 

Samy Debah, who founded the Collective Against Islamophobia in France in 2004, quietly left the organization in March. “I have never been loyal to a single political party. Since I’ve become an official candidate, activists from leftist parties have approached me but I declined.” His candidacy is expected to prompt debate, since the association has documented Islamophobic attacks within the last several years from the right and extreme right, but also by Manuel Valls when he was prime minister.

Debah hopes to mobilize voters in the 8th district of Val d’Oise, which has seen high voter abstention rates. In the 2012 legislative elections abstention rates reached 57.38%. He has openly rejected any forms of communitarianism, stating, “I am Muslim and French and I see it often.” His candidacy is a test, as voters are accustomed to Tariq Ramadan and Marwan Muhammad. This time, it’s Samy Debah who has emerged as a viable candidate.

 

 

Muslim organizations celebrate Macron victory

 

Following the announcement of Emmanuel Macron’s victory, the Grand Mosque of Paris released the following statement:

“The Grand Mosque of Paris sees signs of a France that has reconciled its spiritual and religious differences in order to respond in unity to the threats of division that weigh on our Nation. It’s a sign for France’s Muslims of a clear endorsement of the vivre-ensemble that is grounded in republican, humanist, patriotic, democratic, and secular values.”

The Grand Mosque of Lyon thanked those who were “conscious of the danger a discourse of hate and rejection of the other has caused France.” The French Council of the Muslims Faith congratulated Macron “for his victory, which opens our country to a future of fraternity and solidarity.”

 

Why do the French Fear Islam?

Although Marine le Pen did not win the French presidential elections, the anti islamic discourses and practices will not abate. This essay explains why, focusing in particular on the lack of symbolic integration of Islam in France.

 

https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/forum/religious-freedom-in-france-s-presidential-elections/responses/why-do-the-french-fear-islam

German Interior Minister revives the debate on a ‘guiding culture’ to which Muslims must assimilate

 

Periodically, the German discourse on immigration is marked by the resurgence of a distinctly German notion – the idea of a ‘guiding culture’ (Leitkultur), supposed to connote an essence of Germanness that needs to be safeguarded amidst what appear to be accelerating migratory flows.

Leitkultur – history of a debate

The term was first coined in 1996 by political scientist Bassam Tibi, who asserted that, in the face of Muslim immigration, Europeans needed to develop and uphold a “European guiding culture”. For Tibi, central elements included the dominance of reason over religious revelation, democracy and the separation of religion and politics, pluralism, and tolerance.

Tibi’s critique of what he saw as cultural relativism and as unlimited immigration was subsequently taken up in political circles – most notably by the CDU politician Friedrich Merz, at the time one of his party’s leading young faces. In the process, it assumed a more narrowly German meaning.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/leitkultur-merz-geht-in-die-offensive-a-99435.html ))

Ever since, calls for an official recognition and – in one way or another – an enforcement of a ‘guiding culture’ are regularly voiced on the conservative side of the political spectrum.

De Maizière’s comments

The latest – and particularly crude – attempt to do so was recently kick-started by the German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière. In an op-ed for the Sunday edition of the country’s best-selling tabloid, Bild, de Maizière wrote that “I like the term ‘guiding culture’ and want to stick with it.” The piece was titled: “We are not burka (Wir sind nicht Burka)”.(( http://www.bild.de/bild-plus/politik/inland/thomas-de-maiziere/leitkultur-fuer-deutschland-51509022,view=conversionToLogin.bild.html ))

The remainder of the relatively long text includes somewhat repetitive musings on the notion of a ‘guiding culture’, followed by a platitudinous as well as random ten-point checklist supposedly summarising its core elements. Essentials of Germanness mentioned range from giving a handshake by way of greeting to Germany’s embedding in the NATO security architecture.

To paper over the cracks of the rather flimsy content of the article, Bild underlaid the entire text with the black-red-gold of the German flag, further enhancing its nationalistic overtones.

Buttressing Germanness against Muslim immigration

As the title intimates, Muslim immigration lies at the heart of de Maizière’s intervention. The first of the ten theses starts by highlighting the need to shake hands and to show one’s face in order to participate in the democratic community.

The fourth section asserts that “religion is a glue rather than a wedge in our country”. This also means upholding the Christian heritage of Germany through Christian festivals and buildings. The seventh point then takes a swipe at notions of “honour” that many immigrants may – illegitimately – connect with “violence”.

Other elements of de Maizière’s declaration stray much further afield, making a good level of “general knowledge (Allgemeinbildung)” constitutive of Germanness (thesis 2), as well as defining Germany via its capitalist ‘social market economy’ (thesis 3). Particularly tortuous manoeuvring is reserved for the issue of patriotism, which – in view of 20th-century German history – de Maizière strives hard to separate from nationalism by asserting that “we are enlightened patriots” (thesis 8).

Political praise and criticism

Reactions to de Maizière’s statements were mixed. While he drew considerable applause from the CDU party, others pointed out that his ’10 points on guiding culture’ were indicative above all of an attempt to fend off conservative challengers from within his own party.

Notably, the Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann is mooted as a replacement for de Maizière should Angela Merkel return to the chancellery after the upcoming German federal election.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/leitkultur-thomas-de-maiziere-und-seine-thesen-sorgen-fuer-aufregung-a-1145587.html ))

Politicians from the Social Democrats, Greens, and the Left remained critical of the discourse on Leitkultur, dismissing it as a political ploy.

Talking about Muslims

As usual, however, the voices of those being ‘talked about’ in this debate were much less likely to be heard. Immigrants, and more particularly Muslim immigrants (as well as their descendants), were not party to the debate being led in the country’s main media outlets and on the political stage.

This state of affairs was criticised by Armina Omerika, Bosnian-born professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Frankfurt((https://www.zdf.de/kultur/forum-am-freitag/forum-am-freitag-vom-12-mai-2017-100.html )): she noted that the ostentatious targets of the Leitkultur debate were never reached by and included in these discussions; a fact which, since Friedrich Merz’s comments in 2000, had made all talk about a ‘guiding culture’ a rather sterile and inane exercise.

More broadly, Omerika questioned the attempt to legalise and commit to paper inherently changeable and shifting social conventions. Giving examples from the university context, Omerika noted that social life in Germany was totally different today when compared to even the recent past of only 50 years ago.

Refugees stress the need for respect

When interviewed about the Interior Minister’s ideas on Leitkultur, a group of Syrian refugees from the town of Rüsselsheim had very little to say about it.((https://www.zdf.de/kultur/forum-am-freitag/forum-am-freitag-vom-12-mai-2017-100.html )) The common consensus appeared to be that it did not really matter what de Maizière said but that it was important to interact with others respectfully in everyday life and respect the ‘ways of the German people’ (whatever that might mean), even if that did not necessitate giving up all one’s own cultural particularities.

A social worker underscored the point that most new arrivals would not even be able to read de Maizière’s article due to the language barrier, making his text a purely ‘domestic’ exercise catering mainly to the established population and to political rivals.

“Germany is my country, too”

More self-consciously Muslim voices were dismayed by what they perceived to be de Maizière’s exclusivism: Malika Laabdallaoui, Moroccan-born psychologist and chairwoman of the Central Council of Muslims in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, stressed somewhat defiantly that not only church spires, handshakes, and carnival belonged to Germany, as insinuated by the Interior Minister.((https://www.zdf.de/kultur/forum-am-freitag/forum-am-freitag-vom-12-mai-2017-100.html ))

“Germany is my country, too”, she asserted. “I belong here with all my values, my religion, my mindset, my engagement for society, my German as well as my Christian and my Muslim friends, with my family.” Addressing de Maizière, she added: “How can it be that you just think me away out of this society?”

German Army rocked by right-wing extremism revelations

To what extent is the German Army – the Bundeswehr – a home for far-right sentiments? This disconcerting question has dominated the German political debate since last week’s arrest of Franco A. Apparently motivated by far-right ideology, the 28-year-old Lieutenant is suspected of having planned attacks on politicians, civil society institutions, and Jewish and Muslim representatives while seeking to make it appear as if refugees were to be held responsible.

A far-right backstory

Franco A., who is a member of the Franco-German Brigade stationed in Illkirch in the French Alsace region, has a history of engagement with far-right ideas. The young man’s master’s thesis – submitted at the French elite military academy of Saint-Cyr in 2014 – was marked by an obvious adherence to right-wing extremist and racial ideologies.

His professors notified their German colleagues, whose evaluation of the thesis came to the same conclusions: an internal Bundeswehr document noted that the text was “not a work for an academic degree but rather a radical nationalist, racist call for action”.(( https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article164193275/Die-voelkisch-rassistische-Masterarbeit-des-Franco-A.html ))

Nevertheless, his superiors still reached the conclusion that any doubts about the soldier’s fitness for service and about his politico-ideological convictions could be “excluded”. As a result, no further steps were taken and his disciplinary file remained unsullied.(( https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article164193275/Die-voelkisch-rassistische-Masterarbeit-des-Franco-A.html ))

A second identity as a refugee

In light of Franco A.’s brinksmanship, the following events read like an adventure tale. In late 2015, he approached local authorities in Bavaria under the pseudonym ‘David Benjamin’ and, claiming that he was a green grocer from Damascus, sought asylum in Germany.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/bundeswehr-offizier-unter-terrorverdacht-das-bizarre-doppelleben-des-franco-a-a-1145166.html ))

Inexplicably enough, over the following months he managed to lead a double life by commuting back and forth between his refugee shelter in Bavaria and his barracks in Alsace. And even more remarkable is the fact that, although he spoke hardly any Arabic, he not only managed to demand legal protection in Germany – he also obtained it.

Whilst this casts an extremely bad light on the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), Franco A. prepared meticulously for his role by questioning fellow soldiers who had helped out at the Office at the height of the so-called refugee crisis in late 2015 and early 2016. In this way, he appears to have obtained valuable insider information on the conduct of asylum procedures and hearings.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/franco-a-soll-bundeswehr-kollegen-vor-asylantrag-ausgefragt-haben-a-1146248.html ))

Run-in with the police at Vienna Airport

Subsequently, Franco A. – together with an accomplice who has also been arrested but whose role remains unclear – began collecting weapons and ammunition. He had hidden an old pistol in the cleaning shaft of the toilet facilities of Vienna’s international airport. The weapon was discovered; and A. was briefly detained when attempting to recuperate it in February 2017.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/bundeswehr-offizier-unter-terrorverdacht-das-bizarre-doppelleben-des-franco-a-a-1145166.html ))

The Austrians tipped off their German counterparts, who began a surveillance operation. Over the following weeks and months, ample materials testifying to A.’s far-right views were collected. Investigators reached the conclusion that A. and some of his confidants might be planning an attack.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/bundeswehr-offizier-unter-terrorverdacht-das-bizarre-doppelleben-des-franco-a-a-1145166.html ))

This premonition appeared justified when, following the arrests of A. and one of his accomplices, investigators uncovered a large stash of ammunition, most of which was taken from Bundeswehr depots.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/bundeswehr-soldat-franco-a-hortete-1000-schuss-munition-a-1146177.html ))

Accomplices and targets

The size of the Lieutenant’s network is as of now unclear. The weapons were stored by fellow soldier Matthias F. in the central German city of Offenbach.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/bundeswehr-soldat-franco-a-hortete-1000-schuss-munition-a-1146177.html )) A blacklist of potential targets for assassinations appears to have been compiled by Franco A. together with at least one other accomplice, Maximilian T., who served together with Franco A. in the Alsace-based battalion.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2017-05/bundeswehr-franco-a-mitwisser-angela-merkel-ursula-von-der-leyen ))

The blacklist seems like a compilation of all political actors A. and his followers despised: targets include former German President Joachim Gauck, current Minister of Justice Heiko Maas, Green party politician Claudia Roth, as well as Bodo Ramelow, Minister President of the state of Thuringia and leading member of the Left party.

Yet the list also mentioned civil society institutions, such as the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, the most important foundation seeking justice for the victims of far-right and neo-Nazi violence; as well as the Central Council of Jews and the Central Council of Muslims.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2017-05/bundeswehr-franco-a-mitwisser-angela-merkel-ursula-von-der-leyen ))

A larger issue

The extent to which the conspirators’ deliberations amounted to a coherent plan or just to a megalomaniacal laundry list of unreachable targets needs to be uncovered by further investigations. Yet even so, the events surrounding Franco A. cast an exceedingly negative light on the Lieutenant’s environment in Germany’s armed forces.

Not only was A.’s master’s thesis not seen as a cause for a concern (critics would say that it was, in fact, swept under the rug). Army inspectors also visited the Lieutenant’s barracks in French Illkirch, only to report that they had found swastikas drawn on the barracks’ walls as well as on an assault rifle. They also noted that the buildings contained a range of memorabilia from the Wehrmacht, the National Socialist predecessor of the current German Bundeswehr.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2017-05/bundeswehr-verteidigungsministerin-ursula-von-der-leyen-usa-reise ))

Extremism in the Bundeswehr

The Bundeswehr has repeatedly had to struggle with allegations of unsavoury behaviour in its ranks. Over the past few months, a string of sexual harassment scandals have rocked the Army. Moreover, the armed forces have faced repeated accusations that they are too lenient vis-à-vis right-wing extremism.

The military intelligence agency (Militärischer Abschirmdienst, MAD) is currently investigating 280 cases of potentially far-right and neo-Nazi soldiers. Yet the treatment of these affairs is long-winded and the number of unreported cases potentially considerably higher.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/rechtsextremismus-in-der-bundeswehr-wenn-der-soldat-den-hitlergruss-zeigt-1.3493827 ))

In fact, an overriding concern in recent years had been the possibility that Islamists might join the armed forces in order to gain military training or even battlefield experience. This is, to be sure, a risk: from 2007 to 2016, 24 soldiers with Islamist leanings were identified by the MAD.(( https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/bundeswehr-islamisten-101.html )) Nevertheless, against the backdrop of the case of Franco A., this strong focus on Islamists looks like a major blunder on the part of the military and intelligence leadership.

Political repercussions

These events have placed considerable pressure on the German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen. Widely dubbed as a potential successor to Chancellor Merkel in her CDU Party, von der Leyen took up the Ministry of Defence after the last federal election in 2013 in order to gain political clout.

At the same time, the Ministry is famed for being “ungovernable”.(( http://www.dw.com/de/schleudersitz-verteidigungsministerium/a-16889658 )) Successive corruption affairs, as well as managerial incompetence have long plagued the German defence portfolio, including during von der Leyen’s tenure. Yet no scandal has developed into such a threat to von der Leyen’s position as the case of Franco A.

The Minister initially took a strikingly bold stance, attesting the army an “attitude problem” and “leadership weaknesses”. However, a backlash from within the CDU forced von der Leyen to apologise for these utterances, seen as tarnishing the work of thousands of committed soldiers. Others questioned von der Leyen’s ability to actually control her own ministry and the armed forces. (( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/bundeswehr-skandal-nur-merkel-verteidigt-von-der-leyen-1.3492235 ))

Growing militancy of the German far right

The case involving Franco A. is only the latest indication of growing militancy on the part of the German far-right. Answering to an information request by a Left party MP, the federal government has just published new data showing that more and more known far-right activists are acquiring weapons, with numbers nearly doubling between 2014 and early 2017.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/news/politik/waffen-750-rechtsextreme-besitzen-legal-schusswaffen-dpa.urn-newsml-dpa-com-20090101-170506-99-343300 ))

In recent months, the German National Day celebrations were have been overshadowed by bomb blasts and far-right agitation. More generally, the incidence of xenophobic hate crimes has skyrocketed with the ‘refugee crisis’ has remained high ever since.

On the backs of refugees

The fact that Franco A. sought to pass himself off as a Syrian grocer is also indicative of a scapegoating mechanism that seeks to paint refugees as the originators of violence. In this respect, the presence of refugees is instrumentalised to carry out agendas of violent action.

These agendas need not necessarily be political. A particularly striking case in this regard was the recent bomb attack on the team bus of the Borussia Dortmund football team. The perpetrator placed three letters at the scene in which the so-called Islamic State appeared to claim responsibility.

Investigators later found, however, that the man had most likely sought to make large financial gains on the stock market by speculating on a dramatic fall in the football clubs’ share prices in the aftermath of his attack.(( https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-21/german-soccer-team-attacker-hoped-to-profit-from-share-slump ))

German Turks debate the results of the constitutional referendum

On April 16, Turkish voters approved President Erdoğan’s proposed constitutional changes, transforming the country into a presidential republic. Turkish voters domestically were close to being evenly split on the issue, with only a narrow majority 51.4 per cent voting Yes.

Strong Yes vote among Turks abroad

Turks living abroad generally supported Erdoğan by a much larger margin, with 59.1 per cent of them casting a Yes ballot. In Germany, this number stood even higher, at 63.1 per cent.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2017-04/deutschtuerken-tuerkei-referendum-volksabstimmung-recep-tayyip-Erdoğan ))

National differences are striking in this respect: while more than 70 per cent of Turks living in Belgium, Austria, and the Netherlands approved the constitutional changes, the Yes camp received only 20 per cent or less in Great Britain, the United States, and the Czech Republic.(( http://diepresse.com/home/ausland/aussenpolitik/5202096/Tuerken-in-Oesterreich-stimmen-klar-fuer-Verfassungsaenderung ))

Politicians’ reactions to the referendum

German media has expressed shock at the comparatively high number of Yes votes coming from German Turks. Some politicians have echoed this sentiment. A diverse number of CDU members has called for the abolition of dual citizenship provisions, as well as for the abandonment of plans that would allow foreigners to vote at county level.(( http://www.wn.de/Muensterland/2775255-Nach-Tuerkei-Referendum-Neuer-Streit-um-Doppelpass-CDU-fordert-strengere-Regeln ))

While remaining critical of the Yes voters, the co-chair of the Green Party, Cem Özdemir, nevertheless struck a different note. He interpreted the strong showing of the Yes camp as a sign of failed integration policies. In particular, he pointed to belated reforms to German citizenship law that had compelled many immigrants to remain foreigners in Germany.(( http://www.daserste.de/information/politik-weltgeschehen/morgenmagazin/videos/FN__moma_Oezdemir_Meier_2504nl_8000-100.html ))

Critical voices from among German Turks

Özdemir’s argument was echoed by Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper living in German exile. Dündar criticised the widespread expectation that German Turks should be immune to Erdoğan’s propaganda effort. Erdoğan’s success among German Turks was linked by Dündar to his ability to present himself as the defender of the interests of those Turks excluded from their host communities.(( http://www.zeit.de/2017/18/verfassungsreferendum-tuerkei-deutsch-tuerken-meine-tuerkei ))

Gökay Sofuoğlu, leader of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD) organisation, which had openly campaigned for a No vote, also rejected any calls for the curtailment of political rights of Turks living in the country. Only greater possibilities for political participation in Germany could be a sensible reaction to the referendum outcome, he argued.(( http://www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de/inhalt.interview-zur-tuerkei-abstimmung-wir-muessen-endlich-aus-der-opferrolle-raus.dcb4866b-2d0b-416c-b441-9981e4836821.html ))

Others, such as comedian Serdar Somuncu, asserted that German decision-makers had failed to stand up to Erdoğan’s authoritarian tendencies as long as it suited them not to do so (mainly as long as he prevented the arrival of further refugees to Europe). This, together with the inability and/or unwillingness to curb racially-charged polemics or even violence against Turkish immigrants, was seen by Somuncu as rendering somewhat hypocritical the belated demand that German Turks act in accordance with democratic norms now.(( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH6vVl9Jj9w ))

Islamic associations’ muted response

German’s Muslim associations have generally stayed silent in response to the referendum result. DİTİB, the country’s largest association, has been embroiled in a succession of scandals linked to its pro-Erdoğan line, including spying activities of some of its Imams directed at suspected members of the Gülen movement. Conceivably, by not commenting on the referendum result, DİTİB wishes to keep a somewhat lower political profile and not attract renewed negative attention.

The equally Turkish-dominated Islamic Community Millî Görüş (IGMG), an organisation with roots in the same Islamist milieu as Erdoğan’s AK Party, also sought to project an outward image of neutrality, asserting that both Yes and No votes deserved respect.(( https://www.igmg.org/das-ziel-muss-jetzt-kompromisskultur-heissen/ ))

Only the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), which is ethnically more mixed and whose current chairman Aiman Mazyek has pursued an ambitious policy of rendering the ZMD politically visible and influential, struck an openly critical note, warning of the threats of dictatorship in Turkey.(( http://islam.de/28665 ))

Need for self-criticism

At the same time, many Turkish German commentators also engaged in self-criticism. TGD chairmain Sofuoğlu asserted that the TGD and other immigrant organisations had made mistakes in the past: “We were too focused on the role of the victim. We have shown too much understanding to those who just stay out of everything [in Germany].”

More particularly, Sofuoğlu noted that only 20 per cent of Turks holding a German passport regularly cast a ballot in German federal or state elections, signalling a lack of interest in German politics.(( http://www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de/inhalt.interview-zur-tuerkei-abstimmung-wir-muessen-endlich-aus-der-opferrolle-raus.dcb4866b-2d0b-416c-b441-9981e4836821.html ))

Unpacking the numbers

At the same time, Sofuoğlu’s comments also apply to some extent to German Turks’ participation in the Turkish referendum. Only half of Germany’s population with a Turkish background was allowed to vote in the referendum because they still hold Turkish nationality. Of these, only 46 per cent actually went to the polls. Consequently, the Yes vote did not represent 63 per cent of all German Turks but only 29 per cent.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2017-04/deutschtuerken-tuerkei-referendum-volksabstimmung-recep-tayyip-Erdoğan ))

Others noted that the intimidation tactics used by the Turkish secret service even on German soil had had an impact in keeping opponents of the constitutional changes away from the ballot box. Many German Turks also reported of acquaintances suspected of being critical of Erdoğan having been arrested when they temporarily returned to Turkey to visit friends and family.(( https://www.rbb-online.de/politik/beitrag/2017/04/tuerkei-referendum-reaktionen-neukoelln.html ))

Diverse reasons for support

Yet the reasons German Turks espouse for supporting Erdoğan are undoubtedly diverse. When interviewed during and after the referendum process, respondents often expressed admiration for Erdoğan’s ability to transform Turkey “from a developing country to the 17th-largest economy in the world”. Nationalist tropes of Turkish pride and greatness were often emphasised.

At the same time, many also presented much more nuanced arguments as to why they supported a presidential system under Erdoğan. And, to be sure, some of them patently felt out of touch with Germany in general and with its political scene in particular. These individuals would not shy away from denouncing those campaigning against the presidential system of being “traitors” and of “having become German”.(( https://www.rbb-online.de/politik/beitrag/2017/04/tuerkei-referendum-reaktionen-neukoelln.html ))

Yet many Yes voters interviewed felt in no way to be on the margins of German life. They asserted that their home country was Germany and that ‘their’ president was “definitely” Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the new German head of state, rather than Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Nevertheless, they deemed it their duty to strengthen the position of the only man they deemed able to prevent Turkey from sliding back into instability.(( https://www.zdf.de/kultur/forum-am-freitag/forum-am-freitag-vom-14-april-2017-100.html ))

A community divided

In the aftermath of the referendum, old and new disagreements within the German Turkish community have come to the fore again. The opponents of enlarged presidential powers accused their fellow German Turks for failing to even comprehend the latitude of the proposed constitutional changes, instead voting blindly in favour of their strongman Erdoğan.

Others could not get over what they saw as an enormous cognitive dissonance – the fact that the partisans of a Yes vote cast a democratic ballot in Germany in order to undermine democracy in Turkey.(( https://www.rbb-online.de/politik/beitrag/2017/04/tuerkei-referendum-reaktionen-neukoelln.html ))

The most pervasive sentiment among opponents of the constitutional changes has been fear – fear of being targeted by communal violence or by the organs of Erdoğan’s state. The president’s supporters were, nevertheless, unfazed: they celebrated their Erdoğan’s win in Germany’s streets.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-04/deutschtuerken-referendum-tuerkei-evet-hayir-berlin-kottbusser-tor ))