Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Germany yesterday to take measures to counter discrimination against its large Turkish population, saying his own relatives in the country feared for their safety. In an interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Erdogan also criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for not joining him for an event in Cologne last month attended by thousands of German Turks. The comments promised to overshadow a government-sponsored Islam Conference held yesterday in Berlin that is designed to help foster the integration of Germany’s 3.2mn Muslims. The vast majority are of Turkish origin. The German government must take severe measures, Erdogan told the newspaper. I have relatives in Germany and they tell me: we are scared. Erdogan was responding to a question about a house fire last month that killed nine people of Turkish origin in Ludwigshafen. The Turkish media has speculated that the fire was a racially-motivated attack, but German prosecutors have virtually ruled out arson as the cause of the blaze, which killed five children and a pregnant woman. Erdogan, who visited the site of the fire last month, said he had seen Nazi symbols on the door of the house.
Many German Turks are pressured to marry only within their ethnic and religious group. But the practice of “importing” partners from Turkey creates new immigrants and stands in the way of integration. “Whether Turks are prepared to marry Germans depends a lot on the importance of religion,” said Amparo Gonzalez-Ferrer, a comparative sociologist at the Juan March Institute in Madrid. The vast majority of Turks are Muslims in a predominantly Christian culture that has become increasingly secular. “One reason why more [Turkish] men marry Germans is that Islam permits them and not women to marry non-Muslims,” Gonzalez-Ferrer said. According to the latest 2006 figures from the Federal Statistics Office, Turkish men accounted for 14 percent all foreigners that German women marry, followed by Italians and Americans.