Germany’s New President – Celebration and Skepticism

21.03.2012

Joachim Gauck was elected as the new head of state of the Federal Republic of Germany last week. The Mulsim organisations in Germany congratulated the new president to his election. The Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany, for instance, is hoping for a cooperative partnership between the Germany’s Muslim communities and associations and the new head of the state. The Council’s representatives were particularly optimistic about Gauck’s statement about the central importance of integration policy. Gauck said he wanted to follow on the path of his successor, Christian Wulff. Aiman Mazyek, Head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, also wished Gauck mall the best for his new position. He assured Gauck that the Muslims in Germany will make their contribution to the freedom and welfare of our state – but he also said they were hoping to become an integral part of German society.

 

Others are more sceptical about the election of Gauck. Mehmet Kilic, for instance, Turkish-born spokesman on integration for the Green Party group in the German parliament, considers Gauck to be the wrong choice fort he position. More specifically, he objects toGauck’s evident understanding for the views of Thilo Sarrazin, who published a highly controversial book (Germany does away with itself) in 2010 (as reported). Similarly, Kenan Kolat, head oft he Turkish Community in Germany, is still disappointed about Wulff’s designation, who had particularly lobbied for a stronger acceptance of Islam as part of Germany.

Germany’s Muslims Are Skeptical towards Their New President

Muslims are divided in their views on the new German president, Joachim Gauck. Many are concerned about his evident understanding for the views of Thilo Sarrazin on Muslims in Germany. Jan Kuhlmann reports

It was a broad coalition in the Federal Assembly which elected Joachim Gauck to the German presidency last Sunday. Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Liberals and Greens all supported the 72-year-old candidate. The media also took a positive view, describing him as a “President of the People” – a judgement which is confirmed by the opinion polls. According to one major poll, 67 percent think he was a good choice. So is Joachim Gauck “everybody’s president”?

That doesn’t seem to be true: in spite of the fact that so many political parties supported him, 108 members of the assembly abstained. Muslims in Germany are especially critical. Some – like Mehmet Kilic, Turkish-born spokesman on integration for the Green Party group in the German parliament – see Gauck as the completely wrong man for the job. He objects particularly to Gauck’s evident understanding for the views of Thilo Sarrazin, a former central banker whose book “Germany does away with itself” (“Deutschland schafft sich ab”) was highly controversial because of its view that the immigration of people who are genetically disadvantaged is causing problems for Germany.

Islamic Studies Scholar Talks about Al-Qaida and Islamophobia

30.08.2011

10 years after the attacks of 9/11, süddeutsche online interviewed Lamya Kaddor, a scholar of Islamic studies of Syrian origins and actively involved in introducing Islamic education in German public schools. Kaddor talked about her fear of Al Qaida, Islamophobia, and what Muslims could contribute to improve inter-faith dialogue. In light of the many questions about Islam, Al Qaida, and terrorism that currently dominate many of her conversations, Kaddor stresses that Islam itself does not justify the acts of religious terrorists and that she, as a Muslim, is as afraid of terrorist acts as anyone else. Kaddor also notes that the events of 9/11 have significantly contributed to feelings of Islamophobia, which now reaches all levels of German (and European) society. It is this general sense of prejudice against Muslims that allows people such as Thilo Sarrazin (with his controversial book published in the fall of 2010 (as reported)) to construct Muslims more generally as scapegoats for current social circumstances. She then criticizes that, since 9/11, many Muslims are simply reduced to their religion and not recognised for who they actually are. According to Kaddor, it is now important to address these issues and fears and improve inter-faith interaction and dialogue. To achieve this, it is vital for Muslims to openly condemn acts of terror in their communities, as remaining silent can be misunderstood.

German Muslims Criticise the Social Democrats’ Refusal to Expel Sarrazin

26.04.2011

There is strong resentment amongst Germany’s Muslim and Jewish communities against the Social-Democratic Party’s (SPD) decision not to expel Thilo Sarrazin from its ranks for his harsh criticism of Muslim immigration to Germany. Just before Easter, the decision was taken that Sarrazin, who had made inflammatory statements about race, Muslims, and immigration in his best-selling book Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany destroys itself), could hold on to his party membership, overcoming efforts by fellow party members demanding his exclusion.

The Party’s decision was not only controversially received within its own ranks (as expressed by many members’ signing of a petition against Sarrazin’s continuing party membership), but also criticised by Aiman Mazyek, Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. According to the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, Mazyek especially criticises the SPD for avoiding a clear (and ruthless) confrontation with Sarrazin and his destructive arguments. Mazyek argues that Sarrazin’s account of (Muslim) minorities in Germany did not align itself with the principles of a tolerant, liberal-democratic society. Therefore, the Party’s decision was not a positive signal for Muslims in Germany.

Long-Awaited Response to Sarrazin’s Book Hits German Bookshelves: A Review

25 March 2011

Patrick Bahners, editor-in-chief of the arts and culture pages of the conservative FAZ, has published a book about the hysteric German debate around Islam. In this article, the reviewer of “Die Panikmacher” (“The Alarmists”) finds that Bahners shrewdly dismantles the arguments of prominent Islam critics like Thilo Sarrazin, Henryk M. Broder and Necla Kelek. Bahners sheds light on the strategies of Islam critics, who oftentimes argue from an absolutist point of view, rejecting any form of dialogue as well as the model of the welfare state. Despite missing a few amendments, such as a comparison with neighbouring countries like Austria, the reviewer welcomes the publication very much.

Patrick Bahners: “Die Panikmacher. Die deutsche Angst vor dem Islam”. C. H. Beck Verlag, München 2011.

German Rapper on Integration Debate: “It Is Insulting that Sarrazin Labels Us all Lazy Muslims”

27 January 2011

In a SPIEGEL interview, German rapper Massiv – Berlin’s answer to 50 Cent – talks about his new album and the controversial views on immigration by bestselling author Thilo Sarrazin that have angered many in Germany and made an international splash as well. “He has managed to build a wall,” the rapper says.

Berlin rapper Massiv, formerly known as Pit Bull, was born Wasiem Taha to Palestinian immigrant parents in the German town of Pirmasens in the Rhineland region near the French border. Fifteen years ago, the now 28-year-old moved with his family to Berlin to launch his career. Massiv’s “Blut gegen Blut” (Blood for Blood) album, released in 2006, firmly established him as a powerful force on the German rap scene.

On his latest album, he also takes on Thilo Sarrazin, the author of the controversial German bestseller, “Germany Does Itself In.” Sarrazin claims, among other things, that immigrant communities have had a negative effect on the German economy and that their presence threatens the future fabric of German society as a whole. The book has inflamed debate about immigration, and been condemned as counterproductive to building any kind of harmony and integration.

Germany’s Integration Provocateur Goes English

Former German central banker Thilo Sarrazin has been touting his controversial book on integration for months. This week, he went on BBC – and managed to sound even more outrageous in English than he does in German. His advice? If you are discriminated against for wearing a headscarf, leave the country.

It was left up to Thilo Sarrazin to introduce himself at the beginning. “Hello, this is Thilo Sarrazin. I am glad to speak to you on BBC ‘Have Your Say.’ … I am the author of a book which can be named in English ‘Germany Is Doing Itself Away.'”

It is a book which has dominated Germany’s integration debate for months, and one which has generated a passionate response — both acceptance and rejection — from people across the country. The book claims, among other assertions, that Turkish immigrants in the country have detracted, rather than contributed to, the country’s prosperity. He also claims, as he said early on in the BBC program broadcast on Tuesday, that “the brightest people get the fewest babies.” Or, as the idea is formulated in his book, immigrants, because of their lower levels of education and what he claims are higher birth rates, are making Germany dumber on average.

German Council of Culture Publishes Islam Dossier

Underlining the fact that Islam has become a part of Germany, the Council of Culture has published a dossier called Islam, Culture, Politics on how Islam is practiced and set into context in Germany. After the debates of the past months, which had been dominated by the condescending remarks of Thilo Sarrazin, publisher Olaf Zimmermann wanted to step back an provide a more nuanced view of Islam, its culture and politics. The document will be distributed at parliament, Church academies, public libraries, and also at mosques. The dossier does not only want to write about Muslims, but also incorporates public figures of the Muslim population, such as the Central Council’s chairman Aiman Mazyek, who participated in the publication

The German Geert Wilders

A former member of Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats has formed a party to attract voters enthralled by Thilo Sarrazin and disappointed by Germany’s existing parties. Berlin politician René Stadtkewitz’s new Freedom Party aims to leverage fear of Islam for political ends.

For Stadtkewitz the debate that broke out after Thilo Sarrazin, the former member of the board of the German Central Bank, published a book claiming that Muslims would soon outnumber ethnic Germans and that they were dumbing down the country, went something like this: After reading Sarrazin’s book, shortly after it was published, Stadtkewitz realized that he liked what he was reading. He felt validated and encouraged.

In a poll commissioned by the left-leaning newspaper Berliner Zeitung, 24 percent of Berlin residents stated that they could imagine voting for a “party directed against Islam.” And a survey conducted by the Emnid opinion research firm concluded that 18 percent of Germans would vote for a Sarrazin party. A Sarrazin party doesn’t even exist. But now there is one lead by René Stadtkewitz, a small business owner from Berlin’s Karow district.

Sarrazin Earns Millions with Anti-Immigration Book

17 December 2010

Former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin has become a millionaire many times over thanks to the proceeds of his inflammatory book attacking Muslim immigrants.
Sarrazin enraged politicians and the public this summer with the incendiary publication 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, Sarrazin warns that Germans could become “strangers in their own country” because of integration, and argues that Muslims are not compatible with German society.

He may have been forced to resign from his post at the Bundesbank and fight expulsion from the centre-left Social Democratic Party, but Sarrazin said on ZDF’s talk show Stuckrad Late Night on Thursday that he’d made a pile of money from the book.

When host Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre estimated that the 1.2 million copies sold had earned his guest €3 million, Sarrazin indicated it was significantly more.