German-Turkish Comedy Looks at the Lighter Side of Immigration

16 February 2011

“Almanya,” a Turkish-German film debuting at the Berlinale, has received rave reviews for its humorous and sensitive take on immigration and integration. The Local spoke with the sisters behind the movie about learning to live and laugh together.

Chancellor Angela Merkel may have recently declared that multiculturalism is officially dead in Germany, but Turkish-German sisters Yasemin and Nesrin Samdereli would disagree. “No. The patient isn’t dead yet. We’re right in the middle of it,” said Yasemin, who co-wrote the film with her sister, and is also the the director. “It takes time and effort.”

The duo, whose parents were among the many Turkish immigrants to arrive in post-war Germany as “guest workers,” used their memories of growing up as foreigners to show a more positive side of the story than has often been portrayed on film.

The plot centres on fictional Turkish guest worker number one-million-and-one, Hüseyin Yilmaz, who decides after retirement to take his family back to Turkey to rediscover their Anatolian roots. The children are transported back to their childhood memories of arriving in their new German home – a place full of blond giants who eat pork, walk rats on leashes, speak gibberish and worship a terrifying wooden figure nailed to a cross.

Sarkozy claims multiculturalism “clearly a failure”

News Agencies – February 10, 2011

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has declared that multiculturalism had failed, joining a growing number of world leaders or former leaders who have condemned it. He responded to the policy which advocates that host societies welcome and foster distinct cultural and religious immigrant groups.“The French national community cannot accept a change in its lifestyle, equality between men and women … freedom for little girls to go to school,” he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia’s ex-prime minister John Howard and Spanish ex-premier Jose Maria Aznar have also recently said multicultural policies have not successfully integrated immigrants.
Mr. Sarkozy added that “our Muslim compatriots must be able to practise their religion, as any citizen can,” but he noted “we in France do not want people to pray in an ostentatious way in the street.” French far-right leader Marine Le Pen late last year came under fire for comparing Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques in France to the Nazi occupation.

Islamic centre hit by arson attack

9 December 2010

An Islamic centre in Berlin was hit by an arson attack on Thursday, with an assailant hurling a petrol bomb against the building’s facade. It was the third such incident involving a Muslim building in the capital in a fortnight.
The assailant threw a bottle filled with flammable liquid against the front of the cultural centre belonging to the Iranian community of Berlin and Brandenburg on Ordensmeisterstraße in the Tempelhof district, police said.
Greens MP Volker Beck held Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer indirectly responsible for the attack. This autumn Merkel declared that “multiculturalism has failed utterly” and Seehofer railed against Muslim immigrants — remarks widely seen as intensifying an already divisive debate over integration and Islam in Germany. Last month, similar attacks were launched against the Al Nur and Sehitlik mosques, both in the Berlin district of Neukölln. No one has so far been arrested.

Muslims call for public service immigrant quota in Germany

4 November 2010

Central Council of Muslims chairman Aiman Mazyek told Thursday’s edition of the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that people with foreign names and immigration backgrounds were often passed over for public service jobs despite having the same or even better qualifications than native German candidates.

A quota would be an appropriate way to level the playing field, he said. Germany’s police forces had already opened themselves up to immigrants, which had benefited the services – and could be improved with quotas – he said. “Why should the experiences of the police not be applied elsewhere?” Mazyek asked.

His remarks followed a national “integration summit” held on Wednesday and attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel, immigrant community leaders – including Mazyek – and state and municipal officials.

Merkel: Public service needs more immigrants

1 November 2010

Only two weeks after saying attempts to forge a multicultural society had failed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for more immigrants in the country’s civil service and deplored discrimination in employment.

“We currently have a real under-representation of people of immigrant origin in the public service and we have to change that,” Merkel said in her weekly podcast. She added, “When someone has a name that doesn’t sound very German, for certain jobs it often happens that they have difficulties in being employed.”

Merkel was speaking ahead of an “integration summit” she chaired on Wednesday with 115 representatives of public services and other organisations concerned with integrating immigrants to draw up an action plan.

This comes just after Merkel had told a meeting of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party that “Multikulti”, the concept that “we are now living side by side and are happy about it,” does not work. “This approach has failed, totally,” she said on 14 October.

Understanding Angela Merkel

by *Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff*

October 21, 2010

*WASHINGTON* — Angela Merkel, German chancellor, is said to be the most
powerful woman on earth. But even by these standards, the global media
tsunami that followed her remarks about the failure of multiculturalism
in Germany must have caught her by surprise. Her every word was
dissected in every corner of the world, and here is how that reads: /The
Australian/ found that Merkel “rejected the idea of cultural pluralism.”
Columnist Esther J. Cepeda of the Washington Post Writers Group
understood that Merkel called “the very idea” of immigrants living
“happily side by side” with native-born Germans “an illusion.” Russia’s
/RT TV/ asked, “Is diversity dead?” The /Miami Herald/ translated her
remark to mean, “Muhammad, go home.” And, adding some historical
gravitas, the paper concluded, “We should all be alive to the grim
historical resonance of a German chancellor declaring the idea of
disparate cultures living peaceably side by side a failure. What, after
all, is the alternative? Shall Germany officially declare itself a
nation with room enough for one culture only? For the record, that’s
been tried already. And it didn’t work so well, either.”

Got that. Been tried. Didn’t work. Which then raises the question: Why
would an otherwise moderate woman adopt the views of the modern-day
anti-immigrant populists? Why would she endorse a position that could be
called relativist at best and racist at worst? Is it simply her Germanic
gene, as the /Miami Herald’s/ op-ed historians seem to suggest? The
answer is simple — Angela Merkel is not the woman she is currently made
out to be. It is time to consider what she really said and really meant.
It is time to put her remarks into context.

[Continue Reading]

Searching for facts in Germany’s integration debate

12 October 2010

Politicians too show a weakness for the periodic departure from reality, particularly when there are votes to be gained — and, as recent experience has shown in Germany, particularly when the subject is the integration of Muslim immigrants. The most recent example was provided by Horst Seehofer, who is not only governor of Bavaria, Germany’s most economically powerful state, but is also the head of the Christian Social Union, a party which is tightly allied with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union (CDU) and has three ministers in her cabinet.

“It is clear that immigrants from other cultures such as Turkey and Arabic countries have more difficulties (with integration),” Seehofer intoned in an interview with the newsmagazine Focus published on Monday. “From that I draw the conclusion that we don’t need additional immigration from other cultures.” The statement, predictably, drew all manner of protests from Germany’s opposition, particularly from the center-left Social Democrats and from the Green Party.

As it happens, there is no Muslim immigration to Germany to speak of. In 2009, a total of 721,000 foreigners immigrated to Germany according to the German Federal Statistical Office — and 734,000 moved away. Of those who arrived, a mere 30,000 were from Turkey, roughly equal to the average number of people of Turkish origin who have left Germany annually in recent years. The rest of the Top Five source countries for immigrants to Germany were Poland, Romania, the United States and Bulgaria, hardly countries known for their outsized Muslim populations.

Two former Guantanamo inmates arrive in Germany

16 September 2010
After months of negotiations between Berlin and Washington, two former inmates of the Guantanamo prison arrived in Germany on Thursday. German officials hope to swiftly integrate them into society. A spokesman for the Hamburg government confirmed that Ahmed Mohammed al-Shurfa, a stateless man of Palestinian descent born in Saudi Arabia, had arrived in the northern German port city.
Later on Thursday, a second former Guantanamo prisoner — 36-year-old Mahmoud Salim al-Ali of Syria — arrived in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in central-western Germany, an official with the state’s Interior Ministry said. “According to our knowledge, he does not pose any threat,2 a spokesman said. “We haven’t brought a sleeper into our country,” he said, referring to the phenomenon of potential terrorists like the 9/11 cell that infiltrate society and appear to be normal residents before they are activated.
Earlier this year, Germany said it was prepared to host two former inmates from the Guantanamo prison. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said the decision had been made for “humanitarian reasons.” “I’m not only the federal interior minister, but also a human being and a Christian,” the politician, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, said as he announced his decision in July.

Prize for cartoonist Westergaard: Muslims disappointed of Merkel

8 September 2010
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has awarded the Media Prize M100 to the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. In 2005, Westergaard had drawn a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, showing him with a bomb in his turban, which had subsequently caused major upheavals in Europe and the Islamic world. He has received death threats and has been under police protection ever since.
In her speech, Merkel recognised Westergaard’s courage and demanded the consequences of the cartoon publication to be taken as a reminder. Europe should be a place where freedom of speech is possible; “the secret of freedom is courage”, the Chancellor said.
Meanwhile, the Central Council of Muslims condemned the award. Chairman Aiman Mazyek said that such an honour is highly problematic at a time that is already charged and heated. Also the Green Party criticised the move.

Trial against xenophobic courtroom murderer of Marwa al-Sherbini to start Monday

Under tight security, a man stands trial in Dresden on Monday for the murder of a pregnant Egyptian woman that stoked anger against Germany and its media in her home country and the wider Muslim world. The defendant, for legal reasons named only as Alex W, is accused of stabbing to death Marwa al-Sherbini on July 1 in a courtroom.

Alex W, classed by police as xenophobic, attacked Sherbini during an appeal hearing against a fine he was ordered to pay for verbally abusing the woman at a city playground in August 2008. Sherbini, who was pregnant with her second child, was in court with her husband and 3-year-old son when the defendant lunged at her with a knife he had smuggled into the building.

The German and Egyptian governments are to keep in touch during the trial of Alex W, a German national charged with the July 1 murder of Egyptian Marwa al-Sherbini, 31, a senior aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday. Maria Boehmer, Germany’s commissioner for minority affairs, made the announcement after a telephone conversation with the Egyptian ambassador to Germany, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, ahead of the court case due to start Monday.