UNDERSTANDING THE LANGUAGE & IMMIGRATION DEBATE
The tests are the latest point of contention in a cultural battle over the
integration of millions of Muslims on a continent wary of terrorist attacks,
such as the ones in London and Madrid. They are another indication that Europe
is struggling with how to temper nationalism and anxiety while defining
citizenship for an immigrant Muslim population restless over what it views as
generations of discrimination.
The tests are idiosyncratically German, demanding a breadth of arcane knowledge that might prove difficult for even the most patriotic Bavarian soul. Questions include details on German mountain ranges, a 19th century seaside painting and the discovery by a German scientist who, outside advanced physics classes, has long since lost his cachet. One can almost hear the collective riffle of encyclopedia pages in living rooms and study halls across the nation.
But it is the questions layered between the inquiries on German geography, history and music that have agitated Muslims. A test in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and a proposed exam in the state of Hesse gauge Muslim sensitivities in an attempt to filter out religious conservatives and potential extremists.
Baden-Wuerttemberg requires an education course and a 30-question oral test to determine whether an immigrant supports issues such as women's rights and religious diversity. The test is graded at the discretion of the interviewer. Some state officials suggest that the exam may be illegal because a provision allows citizenship to be revoked if it is found that an applicant masked his religious or fundamentalist tendencies.
Question 27 is typical of the test's tone: "Some people consider the Jews responsible for all the evil in the world and even claim they are behind the Sept. 11 attack in New York. What do you think about such suggestions?"
The Hesse exam — expected to be approved this year — lists 100 questions, most of them on German history and culture. About 10 queries are aimed at Muslims, including whether a woman should be allowed in public unaccompanied by a male relative. Islamic organizations have cautioned immigrants not to give answers on their religious and personal beliefs. One satirical German website quipped that Muslims failing the test would be interrogated and flown out of the country on a CIA plane.
"These tests are presupposing, negative and anti-Islamic," said Eren Unsal, a sociologist and member of the Turkish Union, a German-Turkish lobbying and educational organization based in Berlin. "What we're seeing is a more restrictive immigration policy whose face is anti-Muslim.
"This is rooted in Sept. 11 and the attacks in Europe," Unsal added. "I think these citizenship tests are the destructive result of a wider cultural debate. They're looking for scapegoats."
Citizenship is granted to immigrants by the German states in which they live. The governments in Hesse and Baden-Wuerttemberg are controlled by conservatives; other right-leaning states are also considering tougher citizenship requirements. Momentum is growing for a uniform national citizenship law — a prospect that would ignite partisan debate between the coalition government of left-leaning Social Democrats and Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.
Merkel favors more scrutiny of foreigners. "Citizenship can't be granted in passing," the chancellor said recently. In 2005, Germany toughened its immigration law by requiring new arrivals to attend 630 hours of language, history and cultural courses.
The European Union is contemplating adopting an "integration contract" for immigrants. The Interior ministers of Germany, Poland, France, Spain, Britain and Italy support the idea. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the continent must lay out "the rights and obligations" for new arrivals.
"A true Muslim believer can answer these questions and not feel singled out," said Eckart von Klaeden, a Christian Democratic member of Parliament who favors more rigorous citizenship questionnaires.
"These tests are designed to keep the extremists out, not just Islamic extremists but right- and left-wing extremists too," Von Klaeden added. "Being a citizen means to take part and live under our laws and share our principal values."
Most of Germany's 3 million Muslims are Turks whose parents and grandparents arrived as guest workers beginning in the 1960s. Failed integration policies and an insular Turkish population have turned many cities into multicultural yet demarcated societies, with unspoken borders between ethnic Turks and Germans.
These lines were being drawn when sociologist Unsal's mother left the Anatolian plains of Turkey decades ago to work in a German lightbulb factory. Unsal was a child when she and her father, a tailor, followed.
"I was 5 years old when I got here. I didn't feel like a migrant back then," said Unsal, a German citizen fluent in the language of her adopted country. "But although I've fulfilled all of what this country has asked of me to integrate, I still don't feel part of society. Germans don't see me as part of their society. I get these kinds of signals 20 times a day."
The situation has intensified since Unsal's childhood. The surge of radical Islam coincided with German fears over high unemployment and the shrinking of the traditional welfare state. Germany's birthrate is the country's lowest since World War II, and it has one of the fastest-growing aging populations in the world. The nation knows it will eventually need new blood to fill jobs and support social programs, but it is increasingly suspicious of foreigners.
The hate that Islamic extremists have for the "Western way of life has opened Germans' eyes to the presence of Islam's followers among them," said a recent commentary on German radio. "Much of what they see is negative, whether it's a newspaper report about an honor killing in Berlin, schoolyards where more Turkish is spoken than German or the forced marriage of a young, head scarf-clad woman."
But some Germans have quipped that although answers to questions on tolerance of homosexuality might preclude some Muslims from citizenship, they would also mean that German-born Pope Benedict XVI would flunk.
In a letter to the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, Ursula Hippler suggested that reaching consensus on what constitutes a German would not be easy.
"Even if I can't answer all the questions" on the citizenship test, she wrote, "I have done more for this country than any foreigner who can answer all the questions right. I know German fluently. I have learned a profession and for 37 years I have paid into social security. What foreigner has had such a career?"
Teachers urge closure
of school terrorised by migrant pupils
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Suddenly, teachers at Berlin's Ruetli school decided enough was enough. They would no longer tolerate being spat at, insulted and attacked by pupils, some of whom spoke hardly any German and many of whom carried knives.
Things had deteriorated to such an extent at the state school - in a district where 80 per cent of pupils are from Muslim immigrant families - that it had become virtually impossible to teach, and some staff feared for their lives. At the end of their tether, staff wrote to the authorities pleading for the school to be closed.
Led by Petre Eggebrecht, the acting head teacher, their letter said: "We are desperate. Our teaching is met with flat rejection. The mood in the classrooms is one of aggression, complete lack of respect and ignorance. Instructions are ignored. Few students bring relevant material, and many of us will only enter a lesson with a cell phone in order to call for help in an emergency."
Students carried knives, supposedly "to defend themselves", and many came from families with no breadwinner and no hope for the future.
When the letter - sent in February - was leaked to the press last month, the extent of the crisis in the country's once-prized education system finally burst into the public arena.
Remarkably, the furore has coincided with the release of the German film Brutally Tough, a fictional portrayal of the criminal youth subculture in Neukoelln, the Berlin neighbourhood where Ruetli school is situated. It tells how the son of a German prostitute is terrorised by Turkish drug dealers. In one scene, a waste bin is placed over his head and beaten with a baseball bat.
Detlev Buck, the director, said his film was meant as a wake-up call to the German authorities about the parlous state of the nation's immigrant communities.
For the staff of the school, the film has proved eerily realistic. "In many families, the pupils are the only ones who have to get up in the morning," one teacher told the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. "I feel as though we are raising criminals and terrorists here," he added. The teacher wrote anonymously after education authorities banned staff from talking publicly, ostensibly to avoid inflaming the situation.
The school's language problems were highlighted last week when a pupil, interviewed on television, was barely able to answer questions put to him. Teachers said that the few German students at the school had resorted to "pidgin German" to fit in with the majority. Last year, not a single pupil passed enough examinations to graduate into employment.
When police and teams of social workers and psychologists were dispatched to the school last week, in an attempt to answer the teachers' calls for help, television crews following them were pelted with cobblestones by "gangs of marauding, hooded pupils".
Since the teachers spoke out 10 days ago, headmasters, staff and pupils at secondary and comprehensive schools across Germany have complained of similar deficiencies in the state system, caused by decades of failed immigration policies and diminishing prospects on job market.
Christian Pfeiffer, the head of Germany's Criminological Research Institute, echoed the teachers' sentiments. "German secondary schools have degenerated into schools for losers," he said.
Stung into action, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government last week launched an action plan to try to come to grips with the problem amid warnings that the immigrant rioting witnessed in France last year was imminent in Germany unless drastic measures were taken.
Turkish leaders say the problems in areas like Neukoelln are to do with deep social problems, not simply the fault of the immigrant population. "Young Arabs who live in Germany are raised in an authoritarian manner. The problem is that the school authorities are weak," Nazar Mazood, the head of an Arabic culture institute in Neukoelln said.
Most of Germany's 3.3 million Muslim immigrant population are of Turkish or Lebanese descent. Critics note that for decades the Turks - by far the country's largest immigrant group - were officially regarded as "guest workers" who were in the country on only a temporary basis.
German language rule upsets Turks
By Kate Connolly in Berlin
(Filed: 26/01/2006) www.telegraph.co.uk
Schools in Berlin with a "German-only" language rule and large numbers of foreign pupils have been accused of discrimination.
Six secondary schools have banned all languages except German in the classroom, playground and on school trips to speed integration.
The Union of Teachers voted this week to expand the policy nationally. In some schools up to 90 per cent of the pupils are non-German.
The rule has been criticised by some politicians and Turkish groups who say it discriminates against the pupils and violates the constitution.
The Turkish Union, which represents Germany's largest ethnic minority, said the policy would create resentment and should be scrapped.
"The learning and use of German is very important but by forbidding something you only achieve the opposite effect to the one you wanted," said Eren Ünsal, its spokesman. "Children should not be forbidden from talking in their mother tongue."
Claudia Roth, the leader of the Green Party, said the policy would hamper integration. "Integration is not going to happen if you impose such rules on people's break-times," she said.
But the headmistress of the Herbert Hoover school, in Wedding, north Berlin, which was the first to adopt the rule, said her school attracted Turkish parents precisely because of the policy.
"Those who want jobs need to be able to speak German well," Jutta Steinkamp said.
Those pupils heard speaking their own language were "politely reprimanded", she said. But no one was punished unless they used their mother tongues to "aggressively attack pupils or teachers".
The pupils defended the German-only policy yesterday. "We need German," said a 16-year-old Turkish girl. "We all come from a variety of different countries, and we speak German when we're all together, even if your own language slips out from time to time."
5 April 2006 www.expatica.com
BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to have talks later this year with leaders of the country's 3.3 million Muslims, a report said Wednesday.
Merkel is due to invite the heads of 16 Islamic groups to the chancellery before parliament's summer recess to boost dialogue after worldwide protests over cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, said the newspaper Die Welt.
The move comes amid unprecedented calls by German teachers for the closure of a Berlin high school following massive disruptions by Arab and Turkish students.
Chancellor Merkel expressed alarm over any such move and officials agreed to keep the school open with beefed up security and additional teachers.
"We must deal with the root of the problem," said Merkel.
In a related development, the Islamic Religious Community of Berlin, published a nine-page "state treaty" it is proposing to be signed by Merkel and German Muslim leaders.
The treaty calls on Berlin to provide Muslims with places of worship in public buildings and to mandate more coverage of Islam on state-funded public TV.
Muslim community members should be given access to German public schools in order to conduct Islamic religious instruction, the treaty says.
The German government should also start paying the Muslim community about 6.1 million euros (7.4 million dollars) a year to fund activities and administrative costs, says the draft treaty.
Mainly Muslim Turks numbering about 2.5 million are Germany's biggest minority out of a total population of 82 million.
Language matters in German high school
Using language as a means to force the country's 4,7-million immigrants to integrate
Benoit Finck |
Berlin, Germany AFP
27 January 2006 11:00
At Berlin's Herbert Hoover High School, roughly 90% of the pupils come from immigrant families, but in a step that has caused political ripples they have been told to speak German and nothing else.
"German is the language spoken in our school. Every pupil is therefore obliged to communicate only in German," reads the rule that was adopted at the school in the working-class neighbourhood of Wedding.
The deputy headmaster, Hans-Joachim Schriefer, said it was implemented with the consent of representatives of the parents and pupils and has been "well accepted".
"We took this step after we realised that there was a constant increase in the number of pupils of non-German origin, who were speaking about a dozen different languages, notably Turkish," he explained. "The aim is to ensure that the pupils can understand each other and to help them improve their marks."
The move has won the backing of the power-sharing government of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, but it has unsurprisingly upset Berlin's sizeable Turkish community.
A Turkish MP from the opposition Greens, Ozcan Mutlu, has argued that the rule contravenes the German Constitution, which says that nobody may be discriminated against because of the language they speak.
The students themselves have mixed feelings about the new rule.
"If we want to have a chance to get a trainee job, we really need to speak German," said Assad, a 17-year-old pupil from Pakistan.
Lydia, a 13-year-old of Turkish origin whose mother tongue is the Semitic dialect Aramaic, said she can understand being made to speak German in class, but not during break time.
"It is a bit much to expect us to speak German in the school yard," she said, adding that she has been told off by teachers for not sticking to the rule.
"When we see that a pupil does not speak German, we call them in and ask them to do so, please, but there is no punishment," Schriefer said.
The German-only rule was introduced a year ago, but a recent article about the school in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet stirred up the old debate in Germany about using language as a means to force the country's 4,7-million immigrants to integrate.
The State Secretary for Integration in the chancellery, Maria Boehmer, has not only spoken out in support of the language rule at Herbert Hoover High School, but expressed the hope that other schools will follow suit.
"Children should be given every opportunity to become full members of society and this means that they should master the German language," Boehmer said on Wednesday.
Wolfgang Thierse, the deputy speaker of the Bundestag, the Lower House of Parliament, has also voiced support for the rule and called for it to be implemented at all schools to "show that we are serious about integration".
Germans began asking anew whether integration was working late last year when riots erupted in Paris's immigrant-packed suburbs, sparking fears that the same could happen here.
The language issue remains a big part of that debate, and at least one other school in Berlin, in the district of Kreuzberg, which has one of the city's highest concentrations of Turks, has also started forcing pupils to speak German only.
But the local authorities in other major German cities with high numbers of immigrants, including Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich, have said they would not consider banning other languages from the school grounds.
Jan. 26, 2006 UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
Officials at a Berlin high school that bans the use of
foreign languages say students have shown marked improvement in their German
The Herbert Hoover School is located in an immigrant area, Deutsche Welle reported. Turkish-speaking families are predominant, followed by Arabs, Croats, Russians and Pakistanis.
Applications for admission have increased 20 percent since the ban took effect in September, school officials say. Other schools in Germany are considering following Herbert Hoover's example.
"Knowing the language is a precondition for successful integration and we've been making much progress in the past few months with regard to our students' language skill," said headmaster Jutta Steinkamp.
The new rules have aroused leaders of the Left and Green parties, who have asked Berlin officials to end the ban.
"It's unbelievable that parents who are aiming to register their children at this school have to sign papers that basically ban their children from speaking their own language," said Ozcan Mutlu of the Green Party. "The goal behind all this may be correct but the way towards achieving it isn't."
‘Foreigners in Germany should learn German'
ANK - Turkish Daily News - January 30, 2005
The head of the German state of North Rhine-Westfalia, Juergen Ruettgers, said foreigners wishing to live in Germany for a long period should learn the German language but added this cannot be done through punishing students who speak other languages.
“Those who want to stay in Germany for a while should learn German. There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims living in our country. They should become a part of our society,” Ruettgers said in a statement to German daily Bild am Sonntag.
“We're in favor of binding rules. The language spoken in Germany is German,” he said. “Each child going to school should learn German but we won't get anywhere through punishments.”
Ruettgers' remarks came after a policy at Berlin's Herbert Hoover High School where roughly 90 percent of the pupils come from immigrant families and have been told to speak German in school.
the language spoken in our school. Every pupil is therefore obliged to
communicate only in German," reads the rule that was adopted at the school in
the working-class neighborhood of Wedding.
Debate Rages Over German Language-Only School
-A secondary school in Berlin has decided to ban Turkish and other foreign languages spoken by its pupils
-In spite of the criticism, school authorities all over Germany are now thinking of adopting the model of Berlin's Herbert Hoover School.
Uwe Hessler (nda) | www.dw-world.de | © Deutsche Welle.
The ban has unleashed a heated public debate about foreigner integration in German society with some politicians arguing the move is counterproductive and discriminates against foreigners.
School authorities, however, claim their students' command of German has improved markedly over the past few months.
Until about six months ago, the mix of languages to be heard in the schoolyard of Berlin's Herbert-Hoover School was of truly Babylonian multi-tongue dimensions.
The school is located in the immigrant-dominated district of Wedding. Ninety percent of the school's students have immigrant parents, with Turks in the majority followed by smaller groups of Arabs, Croats, Russians and Pakistanis.
Since September of last year, however, they are not allowed to speak in their native tongue at school. The rule has become enshrined in the school's code of conduct, agreed to by parents' representatives and school authorities. School headmaster Jutta Steinkamp says her pupil’s command of German has improved substantially.
Language a basis for efficient integration, says school head
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Teachers say that the emphasis on German helps kids integrate.
"We have introduced this ban to enable our students to take part in German society through speaking and understanding the language properly," Steinkamp said. "Knowing the language is a precondition for successful integration and we've been making much progress in the past few months with regard to our students' language skills."
But some politicians want Herbert-Hoover-School's "ban" on non-German language to itself be "banned." Members of the Left Party and the environmentalist Greens accuse Berlin's school authorities of discriminating against immigrants. Özcan Mutlu is of Turkish origin himself, and serves as the Green's spokesman for education.
"I think this is an inappropriate means because it says that foreign languages are not welcome at this school." he said. "It's unbelievable that parents who are aiming to register their children at this school have to sign papers that basically ban their children from speaking their own language. The goal behind all this may be correct but the way towards achieving it isn’t."
School admissions up as support grows
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Some students believe the ban is good for their future prospects.
Herbert Hoover School has seen school the number of applications rise by 20 percent in recent months, and it enjoys nationwide support from teachers' associations. And some students believe the ban may be good for their future.
"I find this quite all right," said one student, born of Turkish immigrants, "because in later life we'll need German much more than Turkish. If you want to learn a profession and earn a living knowing German is absolutely necessary."
spite of the criticism, school authorities all over Germany are now thinking of
adopting the model of Berlin's Herbert Hoover School. They see a chance to help
come to grips with the problem of rising unemployment and poverty among Turks
and other large immigrant groups.
NOTE ON SURVEY
According to a recent survey: the risk of immigrant pupils leaving school without a certificate is three times higher than for native German pupils. The prime reason, the report says: a lack of basic language skills.
EU Steps Back, Turkey
Allows Native Tongue Broadcasts
By Emre Demir, Strasbourg
Published: Thursday, March 09, 2006
Turkey's Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) have given permission for three local channels to broadcast programs nonstop in Kurdish.
However, several European Union countries prefer the limitation of minority language broadcasts, even though the EU set granting permission for Kurdish broadcasts as a precondition to start full membership negotiations. Greece does not permit Turkish broadcasts, while Denmark and Sweden ended Turkish broadcasting on the state radio in February.
Germany was previously criticized after it approved the report of the Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe, since it did not allow the required duration of programs broadcast in minority languages.
Several minority groups in France find television broadcasts in their native languages inadequate; with programs broadcast in the Occitan language gaining approval to broadcast 45 minutes a week, and the Catalan language for just five minutes. Weekly broadcasting in Breton, which is common language in northern France, was suspended in February due to a lack of interest. Greece is one of the countries rejecting the contract. The country does not approve the broadcast any minority languages on either television or in radio, even though it is an EU member country. Several languages such as Turkish, Macedonian, and Albanian in particular are spoken in the country.
In the meantime, Turkish radio broadcasts have recently ended in Europe. Weekly Turkish broadcasting on Swedish State Radio was canceled.
“Merhaba” (Hello) radio broadcasting in Sweden for 29 years was closed down “due to the lack of audience;” while Kurdish programs continue to broadcast daily. Denmark is another country ending its Turkish program broadcasts, too.
The Copenhagen government ended Turkish programs broadcast on state radio in early 2006 due to budget cuts.
According to the report prepared by the Council of Europe Regional and Local Democracy Committee, several countries particularly Germany and the Netherlands lack local broadcasting in minority native languages.
The Council called on Greece and France, following harsh policies on minorities, to sign the contract. Turkey has not yet signed the European Regional and Minority Native Language Contract that legally ensures education and broadcasting rights for minority languages in the country. Apart from Turkey, countries also yet to sign the contract are France, Belgium, Greece, and Luxembourg.
ONLINE - February 2, 2006, 05:52 PM
Integration in Germany
Giving Turkish-German Kids a Chance
By Siobhán Dowling in Berlin
Integration is a touchy issue across Europe and Germans are worried that unrest could eventually infect its immigrant population. The country's education system, say leading integration experts, is the place to start.
Erman Tanyildiz has made helping immigrants in Germany a priority.
Erman Tanyildiz, a Turkish-German entrepreneur, was concerned as he watched
images of the French riots flicker across his television screen last autumn.
How, he thought, can Germany prevent its own immigrant community from erupting
in frustrated unrest?
His first brainstorm -- which he himself describes as "crazy" -- was the establishment of elite kindergartens in Germany's immigrant neighborhoods. Surely, he thought, teaching English and other foreign languages to immigrant children before they even got to school would help them get ahead.
But then, to anyone who has spoken to Tanyildiz, the idea is hardly out of character. After all, as founder of the OTA-Tanyildiz foundation, he has long been supporting educational initiatives, and runs a training center in the Berlin working-class neighborhood of Lichtenberg for 500 disabled and economically disadvantaged teens. But it is his latest venture which is really turning heads in the German capital: the OTA Hochschule -- a year old private university focusing on Turkish-German relations. It also seeks to improve higher education opportunities for immigrant groups.
"I thought I had to do something for Germany's immigrants so that they could earn professional qualifications," Tanyildiz says. "Professional integration is where social integration starts."
A lack of decent education opportunities
The university, called the OTA Hochschule and which sent its first graduating class out into the work world last year, was conceived in 2000. The German government was considering an immigration program for professionals to fill the country's IT skills gap and for Tanyildiz, this was just another example of Berlin failing to see what was right before its nose -- namely, a young immigrant population already living in the country but lacking decent education opportunities.
By 2002, the OTA Hochschule had already cleared the not-insignificant
bureaucratic hurdles facing new universities in Germany. Soon, OTA will formally
link with two universities in Turkey and will offer double diplomas to students
from both countries. And in September 2005, Rita Süssmuth -- whose long list of
qualifications include having chaired Germany's Independent Commission of
Migration and being a former member of parliament and ex-president of the
Bundestag -- took up her new role as president of the small university, which
offers bachelor's degrees in business administration and computer science.
Despite Tanyildiz's initial successes, however, the shortcomings in the German school system remain. Indeed, the biggest problem the new university faces is that there aren't enough Turkish youth with the qualifications to even apply.
A 2003 study, for example, found that youngsters from the highest socio-economic background are almost nine times more likely to go to a gymnasium -- Germany's university-track high schools -- than those from the lowest. The rest get dumped in second and third tier schools originally intended to train future workers for a job as a tradesman or factory worker.
A great idea in theory. But with fewer and fewer such jobs -- and with a calcified economy seemingly unable to keep unemployment below 5 million -- these schools have become dumping grounds for poorer children and for children of Turkish immigrant families. A stopgap on the way to the very long welfare lines.
"Everything is backwards in Germany"
"We have to change our system to make it more permeable," Süssmuth says. "The system is not flexible enough to open the door to someone who is not from the traditional background. It's a question of social mobility. In most countries, you have an integrated comprehensive system, whereas we don't in Germany."
In Germany, in fact, the hurdles start immediately. Kindergarten is not free everywhere in the country, meaning children from poor families have a deficit starting from grade one. Many Turkish families don't speak German at home, compounding the problems for Turkish-German children when they get to grade school. And at the end of the fifth or sixth grade, depending on the state, the decision is made as to which of the three high schools children may enter -- a system heavily criticized by the so-called PISA study of school systems undertaken by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. No wonder, then, that only very few children with immigrant backgrounds make it to gymnasium and the university.
"Everything is backwards in Germany," Tanyildiz says. "You have to pay for kindergarten but not for university.... We have to promote from the roots, not from the top down but from the bottom up."
There are thousands of Turkish entrepreneurs in Germany, like this vegetable seller in Berlin. But opportunities for Germany's immigrants remain slim.
All of which makes the new university little more than the first step on the long road toward educational integration -- a point its founder concedes. Still, Tanyildiz is hoping the OTA Hochschule may be able to make up for the current dearth of role models for Turkish-German youth. He himself had his uncle -- who ran a steel factory -- when growing up. "My parents said to me, 'if you do well in school, you will be like your uncle,'" he says. "What kind of role models are there today for the Turkish youth?"
And meanwhile, of course, there's that kindergarten idea. It's still embryonic, but he's beginning to line up some political support. "You have to put the kids in kindergarten and make sure they get a good education and perspective and are motivated," he says. "The system in place now just doesn't match the reality on the ground. It has to be changed."
ONLINE - February 2, 2006, 05:43 PM
Interview with Integration Expert Süssmuth
"We Cannot Continue Wasting Immigrants' Potential"
Former German cabinet member and parliamentary president Rita Süssmuth has long been a heavy hitter in the field of immigration and education. She spoke to SPIEGEL ONLINE about Turkish entrepreneurs, improving opportunities for immigrants in Germany, and the need to teach Turkish mothers German.
Dr. Rita Süssmuth wants to see Germany's immigrants better integrated.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Professor Süssmuth, you have recently been appointed
president of a new private university -- the OTA Hochschule -- in Berlin. The
school focuses on improving higher education opportunities among Germany's
Turkish population. Why this focus?
Süssmuth: In Germany, lots of people complain about the problems migration brings. But we hardly ever speak about migrants as entrepreneurs. We have more than 60,000 Turkish entrepreneurs in this country but only have 26,000 Turkish students at university. We need to bring together business and academia.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: And you think a new university is the way to do that?
Süssmuth: We are showing people what Turkish students are capable of and how they can contribute to German society. Integration is not only possible but an advantage to Germany. There are highly skilled people living in our country, and we cannot continue wasting their potential. We can contribute to fighting prejudice.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: According to the most recent PISA study -- the OECD's comparative analysis of primary and secondary education -- young people from immigrant backgrounds are significantly less likely to attend a university-track high school in Germany that those of German background. In other words, they have trouble even getting as far as university. How can a new university help?
Süssmuth: We have a duty to ensure that children learn German before they even start school. That means we have to promote all efforts to teach the German language -- including programs to teach the mothers as well. They can't help their children when they themselves can't speak the language. So, what is our function before they come to us? To promote all activities that help bring more children to the gymnasium.
We also have to cooperate with gymnasiums and urge them to have a lower selectivity when dealing with youngsters with a migrant background. At the moment, children with an immigration background are three times more likely to leave school without a certificate than children of German origin. More of these children have to receive their diplomas from either top-tier gymnasiums or from second and third tier high schools. We need to increase the proportion of migrant youngsters within higher education and within higher positions in the workforce.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You've written a lot about the importance of intercultural education. Is that what's missing in Germany?
Süssmuth: We speak a lot about diversity, diversity of gender, diversity of ages, diversity of cultures, but we have very little access to knowledge about other cultures, about other religions. When you don't have an educator within the kindergarten who knows something about the culture of the migrant children, then very often you ignore the history and culture which shaped them. Education plays a central role. It's not something that's only important in Germany, but vital in a globalized world.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: And in a Europe that seems to be having problems with integration?
Süssmuth: It's not sufficient to just learn the language. What we have learned from all the studies is that there are two dominant factors: education and work. But education without work, education without having the opportunity to be included in a society, gives you the impression you don't belong -- that you are excluded. The whole philosophy of the OTA Hochschule is that we are committed not only to their studies but to their integration in the workforce, whether they are German or not German.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In other words, fix unemployment problems in the banlieus and there will be no more rioting in France?
Süssmuth: The situation is different in Germany and France, but
unemployment is an overwhelming factor. People experience inclusion or
exclusion, and they either have the feeling they are needed or not needed, and
it's important to have this feeling of being needed. In France, immigrants may
have the French passport, but they nevertheless feel excluded. We have to
provide them with a better education and a better integration into the work
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is the integration model in Germany more successful than the French model? After all, there weren't any riots here.
Süssmuth: We have only just started an official integration policy. But during the many years when we pretended that Germany was not a classical country of immigration, immigrants were living here -- a lot of them for 20, 30, 40 years. During that time civil society, business, trade unions, churches, associations, citizen initiatives did a lot for integration. But unlike France, we avoided the housing projects which became immigrant ghettos. But if we look here in Berlin -- at the neighborhood of Neukölln for example -- there are areas where youngsters need a better environment.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: For decades, Germany had no solid legal foundation for regulating immigration. Finally, in 2005, the Immigration Law came into effect. Is this a significant step towards better integration of immigrants?
Süssmuth: Yes. Before the law, people were taught that foreigners came to Germany temporarily and that they would go back home. That had a major impact, particularly on education. On the one hand, the immigrants' priority was to learn the mother tongue and not German. And in the minds of the German public, there was the idea that the immigrants would not stay in Germany. This new law brought quite clearly to the public awareness that foreigners in Germany have to be integrated. But it's still not enough. We have to improve our schools and occupational training for immigrants.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: That sounds very progressive. France too tried a number of different strategies to help out its immigrant population, but it doesn't seem to have helped.
Turkish immigrants in Germany often have difficulties securing jobs and education.
Süssmuth: The tradition of the German society is different from the French one. The French people believed "we don't need integration, we have assimilation." That was not the German position. The Germans did perhaps more for integration and often lived together with its immigrant communities instead of completely separately. But despite these efforts, we do have problems in some areas of our big cities where immigrants are living separately from the German society.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you think Turkey's accession to the European Union would help the Turkish immigrant community integrate in Germany?
Süssmuth: I am convinced of it. If you look at the Turkish community in Germany, the majority is in favor of membership. They are pushing for more democratic reform in Turkey to raise the chances of Turkish EU accession.
Interview conducted by Siobhan Dowling
German 'Muslim Test' Stirs Anger 2/10/2006
During an evening there, I meet a Kurd, a Serbian Jew, and a German whose curly black hair betrays his Mexican heritage.
This is the multicultural dream that Germany's Left has promoted for decades - but which not everyone shares.
The Christian Democrat-led government of Baden-Wuerttemberg, of which Stuttgart is the capital, has just introduced new "discussion guidelines" which have sparked national controversy.
They consist of 30 questions which can be put to applicants for German citizenship to see if they share democratic values. But they have been strongly attacked as aimed against the state's large Turkish community - and dubbed "the Muslim test".
"This measure - the so-called discussion guidelines - means that I cannot imagine applying for German citizenship in the near future," says Sueheyla Ince, a local lawyer who was born in Germany but holds a Turkish passport.
"I have to prove, by answering these questions, that I'm a 'good' Muslim," she says, "because it puts all Muslims under a general suspicion of terrorism and insinuates that they're not interested in the values of the German constitution."
The questions, which have been leaked to the German media, cover a range of subjects. A few examples:
The new measure is the brainchild of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Interior Minister, Heribert Rech.
"When there are doubts about an applicant's values, the easiest thing is for an official to have a talk with him - but not a talk about the weather or about football," he says.
"It needs to be about his view of our constitution, of tolerance, of sexual equality, or of the state's monopoly on the use of violence. Only with these questions can we come close to finding the answers we need."
An opinion poll found 76% of Germans agree. This country has around three million Muslim inhabitants - mostly Turkish, with Bosnians making up the next largest group, followed by people of Arab origin.
Since 11 September 2001, which was partly planned and carried out by Muslim students based in Hamburg, these communities have been viewed with suspicion.
There have been controversies over headscarf bans (also first introduced in Baden-Wuerttemberg) and over so-called "honour killings" of Muslim women by family members.
There is also currently a row over a Berlin school that has banned the use of languages other than German in the playground.
But many politicians have said the "discussion guidelines" merely pander to popular stereotypes of Muslims.
"Mr Rech is creating a problem which does not exist," says Cem Ozdemir, a Green Party MEP from Baden-Wuerttemberg.
"I would wish that we live in a world where everybody is accepting equal rights for gays and lesbians, where everybody fully understands the need for equal rights for men and women and so on.
"But unfortunately that is not the case - and it's not only a problem of migrants from Muslim countries. It's a problem of Christians and people who are already citizens of Germany."
Stuttgart's Turkish community is organising a petition drive and demonstrations. But it is going to be an uphill battle.
A motion condemning the new measure, tabled by the Greens in the Bundestag, was defeated. Many politicians have voiced support for the guidelines, and the neighbouring state of Hessen is now considering following Baden-Wuerttemberg's lead.
'Language is the key to integration'
Spiegel Online's Anna Reimann interviews Armin Laschet, North Rhine-Westfalia's Minister for Generations, Family, Women and Integration.
Copyright Expatica News 2006
Mr Laschet, do you believe that being compelled to speak German, as has been introduced at a school in Berlin, helps foreigners to integrate?
I believe that knowledge of the German language is the key to integration and to success both at school and in a future profession. The advantages of the Berlin school's rule are that it was developed by pupils, teachers and parents working together, and that the pupils themselves are very satisfied with it, because they know that speaking correct German increases their opportunities. Therefore I find this approach very good.
Would you be in favour of similar regulations being introduced in schools in North Rhine-Westphalia as well?
I don't think it's right to prescribe a rule like the Berlin one, but if schools in North Rhine-Westphalia agreed on a similar approach - perhaps especially in those schools where the proportion of immigrants is particularly high - then that would also increase the chances of children here. I would like it if schools in North Rhine-Westphalia followed this example from Berlin.
Do you have any sympathy for the allegations of Turkish organizations and Greens politicians that the regulation in Berlin is discriminatory?
No, I cannot understand that. The Greens were again somewhat too hasty in this case. If the politicians looked more closely at the rule, they would see that it is exactly what everyone wants, namely immigrants and Germans developing models for rules together. After all, the Berlin government and other factions have already expressed their approval.
In the Netherlands, the government's Immigration and Integration Minister plans a code whereby only Dutch will be spoken in public. Is that not unacceptable discrimination?
I have read about that and plan to examine the proposal more carefully. The most crucial thing is that these proposals should be developed together by immigrants and the majority society, so that they become part of a common Leitkultur [guiding cultural values]. The immigrants should themselves help to define what is right for them. If there were such a consensus in the Netherlands, then it would be an interesting solution. Naturally people should be free to speak different languages in the private sphere. However in small areas of public life this appeal to speak only Dutch could be right.
North Rhine-Westphalia was the first German federal state to establish a ministry for integration. What does your work consist of apart from being a "senator for multiculturalism"?
Our ministry has two distinctive features. It is the first "generations ministry", which studies the consequences of demographic change, and secondly it is the first German integration ministry. Previously integration was a subsection of the social ministry. But we believe that integration policies are more than just social policies. Integration policies play a role in practically all policy areas. Integration must be successful at the local authority level. We have proposed holding integration conferences in cities and municipalities, at which the social security office, the cultural activities office, the education authority and the town planning office would come together to consider questions such as: How can we prevent parallel societies from developing? How can we increase immigrants' chances at school and in their professional life?
Which concrete means does government have to stop or prevent the development of so-called "parallel societies"?
First of all, we need to follow town planning policies that prevent ghettos from developing and which ensure that Germans and immigrants live well together. Moreover language is the key to integration. When children start school and don't speak the language correctly, they inevitably receive worse grades. That continues throughout their schooling and in the end they aren't able to get a vocational training place. That's why we are in favour of introducing language tests starting from the age of four and thereby promoting language skills from kindergarten on. The funds for this have been doubled in the new fiscal year.
Do you think that a similar situation could arise in Germany as happened last autumn in the French banlieus?
Naturally we have to do everything to make sure that something like that does
not happen here. Our ministry was founded before the riots in France began. The
events in France show how important the topic of integration is.
Armin Laschet (44) is Minister for Generations, Family, Women and Integration in the federal state North Rhine-Westfalia. He is a lawyer and a trained journalist. From 1999 to 2005 he was a Member of the European Parliament. Since 1999 he has also been chairperson of the CDU's National Expert Committee for International Cooperation and Human Rights.
The interview was conducted by Anna Reimann. Translated from the German by David Gordon Smith. This interview is reproduced here with the kind permission of Spiegel Online, where it originally appeared.
Links: The original German interviewSpiegel International (Spiegel Online's English site).
27 January 2006 Copyright Spiegel Online 2006
EU six consider introduction
of'integration contracts' for migrants
By Hugh Williamson in Heiligendamm, Germany
Published: March 24 2006 02:00 | Last updated: March 24 2006
The six largest countries in the European Union are considering having immigrants sign a contract that would require they learn the language of their adopted country and accept its social norms or risk being expelled.
The "integration contract" is still to be discussed with the other 19 EU member states. Nicolas Sarkozy, French interior minister, proposed it during a meeting of ministers from the "G6" countries - Germany, Britain, France, Poland, Spain and Italy - at Heiligendamm, a luxury resort on Germany's Baltic coast. His idea is based on draft procedures already being debated in France.
Published: Friday 24 March 2006 | Updated: Friday 24 March
Following an initiative of their French colleague Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior ministers of the EU's six biggest member states have agreed to examine the possibility of asking potential EU immigrants to sign an 'integration contract'.
So far, provisions that immigrants have to undergo are quite diverse throughout the EU. In Germany, for example, immigrants applying for full citizenship have to pass tests in only two of the country's 16 Länder. Critics argue that most Germans would not themselves be able to pass the test of the Land of Hessen, for instance. Germany's interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble (Christian Democrat) has repeatedly argued in favour of a plan to introduce one single citizenship test for immigrants into the whole of Germany.
Schäuble has now said that the contract proposed at Heiligendamm should not be viewed as a threat to immigrants, but rather as a sign "that we are offering to integrate them" and that immigration must be a "reciprocal" process. He said differing forms of integration procedures were needed, ranging from initial immigration to tests for full citizenship. At the same time, Edmund Stoiber, the influential leader of the Bavarian conservatives, argued in favour of US-style immigration tests to be introduced for the whole of Germany. "It has to be clear that in our country the monopoly of power belongs to the state and not the Turkish man," Stoiber told the Bild tabloid.
The Financial Times quoted UK Home secretary Charles Clarke as saying that he supported the move towards an integration contract, which could be used as a check that "new immigrants live up to the values of our society" - with expulsions a possible consequence if they did not.
G6 interior ministers hope to agree the terms of the 'intergration contract' at their next meeting at the beginning of May in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Deanne Corbett | www.dw-world.de | © Deutsche Welle.
Integration courses should help immigrants on the path to citizenship
Two German states have so far put forward proposals on how to make the citizenship process for foreigners more rigorous. They include a list of questions on cultural norms to serve as a guideline in discussions with citizenship candidates in the state of Baden-Württemberg, and a list of general knowledge questions on German history, geography, politics and culture which, according to state ministers in Hesse, new citizens should be able to answer.
The proposals are a step in the right direction. The fact that several other states are now considering how they would wish to regulate citizenship in the future is proof that this discussion is long overdue, just as the political debate about how to regulate immigration -- a debate that was unsatisfactorily resolved only two years ago -- was also long overdue.
Germany is an immigration country, despite the fact that many Germans would prefer to continue denying the obvious. Given its demographic development, it will continue to need immigrants in the future. Integration, however, is in desperate need of improvement. The decisions now being made about integration measures, as well as citizenship tests, are aimed at ending the ghettoization of foreigners, especially Germany's large population of Muslim, mainly Turkish, immigrants.
It's no coincidence that the push to regulate immigration and citizenship -- not just in Germany, but also in other EU countries -- is happening in the post-9/11 climate when Muslims are under unprecedented scrutiny. The broad threat of Islamic extremists with their well-documented hatred of the Western way of life has opened Germans' eyes to the presence of Islam's followers among them, and much of what they see is negative, whether it's a newspaper report about an honor killing in Berlin, schoolyards where more Turkish is spoken than German, or the forced marriage of a young, headscarf-clad woman.
While the desire to "weed out" those immigrants who steadfastly refuse to assimilate to or even accept the German way of life is understandable, Germany should not fall into the trap of allowing each of the federal states to regulate citizenship as it sees fit; this would only allow a plethora of flawed concepts such as those proposed by Baden-Württemberg and Hesse to flourish.
Baden-Württemberg's "conversation guidelines" for civil servants, for example, immediately earned the nickname of the "Muslim test," and not without reason. But many of the questions included to help the interviewer evaluate how tolerant a Muslim candidate is -- questions about female equality and homosexuality, for example -- would likely elicit politically incorrect responses even from born-and-bred Germans.
Hesse's list of 100 questions that someone becoming a German citizen should be able to answer was also dubious. It's doubtful that a large majority of Germans would be able to rattle off three non-Alpine German mountain ranges, know what Otto Hahn was famous for, or remember that Caspar David Friedrich's painting of Rügen features chalk cliffs as its motif.
An intimidating list of quiz show-like questions is not the answer, nor is a conversation aimed at interrogating Muslims about the intensity of their beliefs. If anything, questions asked in a citizenship interview should focus on what it means to be German, though for this to happen, Germans must first come up with a definition they themselves are comfortable with. German lawmakers would also do well to remember that granting citizenship means more than rubber-stamping an application and issuing a passport. Rather, it is the culmination of an integration process that takes place in the years leading up to an immigrant's application for citizenship. In this respect, a continued commitment to funding integration initiatives is essential.
It is perfectly acceptable to demand that immigrants who want German citizenship be asked to demonstrate their commitment to their chosen country by learning the language and making an effort to understand the political system, history and culture. An appropriate, nationally approved test, as well as a citizenship ceremony as is common in countries founded on immigration -- the United States and Canada, for example -- could even turn the granting of citizenship into a proud moment to be celebrated.
20 January 2006
BERLIN - A Berlin school has banned its students from speaking languages other than German while on school grounds.
"The language of our school is German, the official language of the Federal Republic of Germany," reads the 'house rules' of the Herbert-Hoover Realschule, which every pupil is required to sign.
The rules go on to say that, "Every pupil is obliged to only communicate in this language [German] within the jurisdiction of the house rules." The rules' jurisdiction is defined as including not only the school itself and its grounds, but also school excursions.
Green politician Özcan Mutlu has protested to the school committee of Berlin's House of Representatives, calling the rule anti-constitutional and discriminatory.
"This kind of ban is okay in lessons," he told the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel. "But everything else is going too far."
Education senator Klaus Böger is defending the rule in the school committee. According to his speaker Jens Stiller, parents were supporting the rule. Some parents brought their children to school precisely because they hoped they would then learn better German, Stiller told the Tagesspiegel.
According to Mutlu, about 90 percent of the children at the school were of non-German origin. The school is located in Berlin's impoverished Wedding district which is home to many immigrant families.
Copyright Expatica News 2006
On Jan. 1, life got tougher for Muslim immigrants angling for a German passport in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg.
In a unique move, the interior ministry of the state has said that potential Muslim Germans would face a lengthy interrogation, involving answering a catalogue of 30 questions on their political, cultural and social views. Subjects include their opinions on religious freedom, equality of the sexes, homosexuality, freedom of expression, the concept of honor, and forced marriage.
Questions range from "Do you think a woman should obey her husband and that he can beat her if she is disobedient?"; and "Would you allow your daughter to participate in sports and swimming classes at school?"; to "What do you think of the fact that parents forcibly marry off their children? Do you think such marriages are compatible with human dignity?"
"Serious or just paying lip service?"
The ministry has said that Germany's 16 federal states
must be permitted to discern whether potential new citizens truly accept the
country's Basic Law, to which they are required under federal law to sign an
oath of allegiance.
"We need to find out whether the applicant really does seriously mean it when he signs an oath of allegiance to the constitution and accepts it, or whether he's merely paying lip service to it," said Günter Loos, Baden-Württemberg interior ministry press spokesman, in Stuttgart.
"There have been neutral surveys and studies that have shown there are discrepancies between Muslim beliefs and our constitution -- just think of things like forced marriages, honor killings and the like," Loos said.
"If there is a suspicion that the person who wants to become German does not share our fundamental principles and values, then the new interrogation is meant to find that out," he added.
Loos insisted the new procedure is "not so much a catalogue of questions," but rather a "guideline" meant to aid officials quizzing the applicant.
"Discriminatory and racist"
Officials will document the responses, which the applicant will eventually have to certify with his or her signature. Those who fail to satisfy the authorities of their readiness to accept the Basic Law will be refused citizenship. Baden-Württemberg has also warned that intentionally fudged answers could lead to German citizenship being revoked years later.
The new measure will only be applied to applicants from 57 Islamic countries (some 60 percent of all immigrants to Baden-Württemberg in 2004). Other candidates will be subject to the procedure in exceptional cases.
Those details of the rule, in particular, have raised hackles among politicians and Muslim groups.
Faruk Sen, director of the Center for Turkish Studies in Essen, said the move was discriminatory and racist.
"Every country has the right to examine foreigners'
loyalty to the country's values and social order with certain questions during
the naturalization process," Sen said. "But if 30 questions are only applied
to Muslims, as is the case in Baden-Württemberg, then it amounts to religious
ostracism and racism."
Sen pointed out that among the 2.7 million Turks in Germany -- the biggest group among the country's 3.5 million Muslims -- there was a high propensity to apply for German passports.
He added that the new measure would hamper the willingness among foreigners to apply for German citizenship, in turn negatively impacting ongoing efforts towards their integration.
"Populist" and "clumsy move"
The move has enraged politicians, who have slammed it as "populist," "questionable" and "hypocritical." Though some have said they understand concerns about the integration of Muslims, they insist the measure instead fosters prejudice and fear.
Doubts have also been raised about whether even sections of the German population would pass some of the questions. Volker Beck, a leading Green party politician proposed a survey in an interview with daily Der Tagesspiegel to find out who supported equal treatment for homosexuals. "The interior minister (of Baden-Württemberg) himself would probably fail the test then," Beck said.
An editorial in the left-leaning daily Taz added the state had no right to poke in private matters -- such as finding out people's stance on homosexuality.
Some states, including Bavaria and Lower Saxony have distanced themselves from the move, saying they have no plans to introduce anything similar.
Even authorities at the immigration office in the Baden-Württemberg capital of Stuttgart have expressed misgivings about the new regulation.
"This is a decision that was taken by the interior ministry alone, we weren't part of it," said Christian Storr, who heads the office of the Immigration and Justice Minister in Baden-Württemberg.
"We do think that fundamentally it's right to conduct a more rigorous check on whether applicants conform to the principles laid down in the Basic Law," said Storr. "At the same time, it's important that such a guideline then applies to all and not just to Muslims. It's an extremely clumsy move."
Experts have also raised serious legal doubts about the measure.
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, former justice minister and legal expert of the opposition free-market liberal FDP, told DerTagesspiegel daily that Baden-Württemberg was skating on thin ice legally.
Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the move violated the principle of equality anchored in the constitution and added that revoking citizenship was a complicated issue and couldn't be solved the way Baden-Württemberg envisaged it.
It also remains to be seen whether the move has anything to do with a regional election in Baden-Württemberg three months from now. The election campaign was opened this week.
German journalism has developed more sensibility and increased the knowledge about Islam and Muslim culture, some experts say.
October, the evening broadcast on Channel 3, a public television station,
featured the talk show "Nachtcafé." It chose the "fear of Islam" as its
theme. The invited guests were to discuss a number of very complex issues:
terrorism, the potential for reform in Islam, forced marriages, the
headscarf, honor killing, and radical tendencies among young Muslims in
This combination of social, political, and religious topics under the label of Islam has been increasingly apparent in the German media for a number of years, according to Claudia Dantschke, a freelance journalist in Berlin.
"In Germany we see an extremely homogenized discussion," she said. "In the past, this was accompanied by ethnic connotations. This translated as an 'us' -- ethnic Germans -- versus ethnic Turks, Arabs, and so on. The language has changed since Sept. 11.
the debate is not one of ethnicity, but of culture," Dantschke added. "This
means that 'Muslim' currently stands as a synonym for what used to be
referred to as 'Arab' or 'Turk.' This societal discussion is reflected in
the media. And the media doesn't exist in a vacuum outside of society."
Of course, topics such as honor killing or the situation of young people from migrant families should be discussed in public. The religious aspect, however, is only one among many and should not be misrepresented as providing the public with a deeper understanding of any particular issue or of being yet another underlying cause of certain problems.
Devout or fanatical?
Western journalists struggle to understand some religious forms of expression
generalizing manner in which the German media covers adherents of a world
religion like Islam is also a sign of difficulties within society. Many
journalists in an overwhelmingly secular society find it difficult to deal
with religious forms of expression.
How should they describe someone who prays five times a day or a woman who wears a headscarf? Are they simply devout or already fanatics?
Yet, there is also something positive to report about the situation in the German media. In recent years, Islam and its rituals have managed to be covered regularly, even in the local press. Reports on the fast month of Ramadan, on religious festivities, or on the "open-door" day at mosques appear regularly.
Both Muslim and non-Muslim media observers have confirmed the increasing competency of German journalists in handling Islamic topics.
"It is getting better to the extent that most journalists who used to approach us knew next to nothing about Islam," said Ayman Mazyek, editor in chief of the Web site islam.de. "They lacked even a basic knowledge of Islam. Things have improved. Reporters writing about Islam have developed a higher journalistic ethos."
Actors in the media landscape
Newspapers like the "Islamische Zeitung" in Germany act as a bridge between cultures
addition, Muslims in Germany are no longer merely the objects of reporting
in the German press, but have since become actors in the country's media
landscape. One example is the newspaper Islamische
Zeitung, established in 1996. It is published every three weeks with a
circulation of 10,000 copies. It aims to promote communication between
Muslims and serve as a bridge between Islam and Europe.
Another example is the Internet portal "islam.de," which began in 1996 as an information forum of the Central Committee of Muslims in Germany. Today, the portal claims to provide critical and constructive reporting on Islam and Muslims, while contributing to a better understanding of Islam. Ayman Mazyek, however, has no illusions about the role played by the Muslim media in Germany:
"In relation to the mass media, the few sprouts of Muslim media here in Germany are truly miniscule," he said. "They could, perhaps, enjoy a disproportionate influence in that it is currently difficult to report on Islam or make a claim without also providing an account of what Muslims themselves think on the issue. It used to be the case – because we didn't have our own media institutions or the Internet – that claims were simply published as is.
"Now, at least, when reporters conduct their research, Muslims can be found to have positions on any number of issues," Mazyek added. "The result is that many disseminators of information in the media turn to authentic Muslim Web sites or newspapers to find out what Muslims are saying and thinking."
: Second and third generation Muslim migrants have a unique view of life in Germany
An independent Islamic media?
Yet one of the big problems is the question of loyalty in the media. Is islam.de truly independent or does it remain a mouthpiece for the Central Committee of Muslims? Is the controversial Sheikh Abdalqadir behind the Islamische Zeitung, as Cologne journalist Ahmet Senyurt claims? Both islam.de and the Islamische Zeitung have denied the charges.
It's remarkable, nonetheless, that so many young freelance journalists work in the Muslim media. It's evident that second and third generation migrants want to have access to German society and engage in discussion. It's high time for German mass media to provide broader access to this social group by welcoming Muslim journalists into their fold.
28 March 2006 www.expatica.com
BERLIN - The number of registered foreigners living in Germany rose slightly last year to 6.76 million out of a total population of 82 million, the Federal Statistics Office said Tuesday.
This was an increase of 38,000 people, or 0.5 per cent, compared with 2004, said a statement.
Gunter Brueckner, a spokesman for the statistics office, said the figure was calculated by including births, deaths and foreigners leaving the country.
A higher number of foreigners, 7.3 million or 8.9 per cent of the population, is reported by Germany's resident registration bureaus, said Brueckner, who stressed this figure is far less reliable than that calculated by his statistics office.
Nevertheless, the 7.3 million figure continues to be the one most commonly cited in Germany.
Turks comprise 26 per cent of all foreigners living in Germany and continue to be the country's biggest minority, the statistics office said.
Italians are the second biggest group with 8 per cent, followed by Poles and Greeks with 5 per cent each and nationals from Serbia- Montenegro who comprise 4 per cent.
Some 1.4 million foreigners living in Germany were actually born in the country. Unlike the US, Germany does not grant automatic citizenship to people born on German territory.
The figures do not take into account illegal immigrants in Germany which some estimates say could number as many as 1 million.
Brueckner declined to make any comment on the number of illegal foreigners in Germany.
"This is all pure speculation based on talks with social workers or the churches," he said. DPA
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