Following the resignation of the German President Christian Wulff on Friday February 17th, migrant organisations and Muslim associations have articulated their regret about Wulff’s decision. Wulff, who finally bowed to public and political pressures and a lack of trust after allegations of corruption and blurred lines between personal, business, and political advantages had dominated discussions about him, enjoyed a reputation of being the president that migrants needed. In one of his early speeches, Wulff publicly acknowledged that Germany was, indeed, a country of immigration and, more importantly, that Islam was now an integral part of German society.
Kenan Kolat, head of the Turkish Community in Germany, expressed his respect for Wulff’s decision – but also for what he had achieved as a key figure for integration in Germany. Kolat is hoping for a successor who takes integration as seriously as Wulff did. Similarly, the Turkish Islamic Union (DITIB) considered Wulff to be the president that was much needed by migrants and Muslims in Germany to foster their integration. Ayman Mazyek, chair of the central councils of Muslims in Germany, appeared optimistic that Wulff’s successor would continue on his path with respect to integration.
Germany’s President Christian Wulff has recently come under increasing attack from across the political spectrum for not having mentioned a private loan of 500,000€ that he received from the wife of Egon Geerkens, a wealthy German businessman, in October 2008. At this point, he was still serving as a premier of Lower Saxony. When the opposition asked him about his business ties to Geerkens, Wulff neglected to mention the loan. While Wulff had to face questions over this private loan in recent weeks and was accused of deceiving the German Parliament about it, he has now received support from Aiman Mazyek, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. Mazyek called for a respectful handling of the case to preserve Germany’s political stability. According to Mazyek, this was now more important than ever before to prevent society from breaking apart.
From June 1st – 5th, Protestant Christians from across Germany came together in Dresden for their biannual convention called “Kirchentag” (“Church Day”). Amongst the topics for discussion at various events throughout the five days were controversial political issues, such as Germany’s abandoning of nuclear power and sexual abuse scandals within the Church. German President Christian Wulff participated in a panel discussion and spoke about the integration of immigrants; he reiterated his view that Islam was now a part of German society, which he had previously stated in his speech on German Reunification Day on October 3rd, 2010.
22 Oct 2010
Headscarf discussions, battles about newly built mosques and the Islam-critical best-seller by Thilo Sarrazin. At the same time that German Federal President Christian Wulff is declaring that Islam is part of Germany. But he has by no means been able to persuade the Germans to agree with him.
Many German citizens are ill at ease because they see their way of life being called into question by the presence of Islam. The headscarves and veils worn by Islamic women annoy them especially. They wonder whether these women are being oppressed. The same concerns are also expressed in the results of a study just published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Oliver Decker, who led the study, speaks of a “very distinct increase from previously 34 per cent to over half the population who agree with statements hostile to Islam”. Many Germans are also sceptical with regard to the building of new mosques, he says.
5 October 2010
Leading conservative German politicians assailed President Christian Wulff on Tuesday for comments intimating Islam had gained a status comparable to Christianity and Judaism in Germany. Wulff riled his fellow Christian Democrats by saying Islam had become an important part of German society in a speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of German reunification on Sunday.
While several Christian Democrats and their Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) allies grudgingly admitted Muslims had earned a place in Germany, they bristled at the idea they were changing the core social fabric of the country. “The speech was easily misunderstood,” CSU politician Norbert Geis told Bild on Tuesday. “If the president wanted to equate Islam in Germany with Christianity and Judaism, then I’d consider that wrong.”
In his first major speech on Sunday since taking office in July, Wulff extended the hand of friendship to Muslims, saying the challenge of integrating them into society was comparable to reunifying the country after the Cold War. “Christianity is of course part of Germany. Judaism is of course part of Germany. This is our Judeo-Christian history… But now Islam is also part of Germany,” he said in his speech. “When German Muslims write to me to say ‘you are our president’, I reply with all my heart ‘yes, of course I am your president’.”
His comments were welcomed by leading German Muslim groups as an important sign that they were not second-class citizens in Germany.
10 September 2010
Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin resigned late on Thursday after causing weeks of uproar with inflammatory comments on immigrants and Jews. “The Bundesbank board and its member Thilo Sarrazin are aware of their responsibilities to the institution of the Bundesbank,” the central bank said in a surprise statement posted on its website. “Given the public debate, the parties concerned are going, of mutual accord, to end their cooperation at the end of the month.”
The Frankfurt-based Bundesbank had previously requested that German President Christian Wulff fire Sarrazin because he had refused to go quietly. But on Thursday the bank said it had “withdrawn its request” and that the 65-year-old had asked Wulff to relieve him of his duties. The statement also thanked Sarrazin “for the work he has done.”
The furore followed the publication of a new book by Sarrazin, Deutschland schafft sich ab — Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen, or “Abolishing Germany – How we’re putting our country at jeopardy.” In the book, he says Europe’s top economy is being undermined, overwhelmed and made “more stupid” by poorly educated, fast-breeding, badly integrated and unproductive Muslim immigrants and their offspring. “If I want to hear the muezzin’s call to prayer, then I’ll go to the Orient,” he says in the book, saying that allowing in millions of “guest workers” in the 1960s and 1970s was a “gigantic error.”
As a consequence, the Sarrazin debate has put the immigration and integration issue back on top of the political and public agenda in Germany.
Die Welt (11/09, German)