EUROPE: by Joseph PoprzecznyNews Weekly
Multiculturalism has 'utterly failed': German chancellor
, November 13, 2010
For nearly 50 years, the Federal Republic of Germany has welcomed Islamic, predominantly Turkish, migrant workers - and, more recently, asylum-seekers - into the country. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently officially declared that the policy has "failed, utterly failed".
Speaking to young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Potsdam on October 16, she said: "In Frankfurt on the Main, two out of three children under the age of five have an immigrant background.
"We are a country which, at the beginning of the 1960s, actually brought guest workers to Germany. Now they live with us.
"We kidded ourselves for a while, saying, 'They won't stay; sometime they will be gone', but this isn't the reality.
"This [multicultural] approach, saying that we simply live side by side and are happy about each other - this approach has failed, utterly failed."
Sharing the podium with Chancellor Merkel in Potsdam was Horst Seehofer, state premier of Bavaria and chairman of Bavaria's governing party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of Merkel's CDU. Mr Seehofer stressed that both parties were "committed to a dominant German culture and opposed to a multicultural one".
Their unambiguous joint declaration comes just weeks after outspoken central bank board member, Thilo Sarrazin, attracted widespread condemnation from leading politicians and commentators for suggesting that Germany should restrict Islamic immigration.
Sarrazin had entered the increasingly contentious debate about Muslims in German society with the publication this year of a book that swiftly became a bestseller, Deutschland schafft sich ab
[Germany Does Away with Itself
], which focused on Arab and Turkish migrant refusal to integrate into mainstream German society.
Sarrazin, as well as now being a bestselling author, is a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and a former government treasurer for Berlin.
In his book he wrote: "Integration requires effort from those who are to be integrated. I will not show respect for anyone who is not making that effort.
"I do not have to recognises anyone who lives on welfare, denies the legitimacy of the very state that provides that welfare, refuses to ensure his children receive an education and continues to produce little headscarfed girls."
"No other religion in Europe makes so many demands. No immigrant group other than Muslims is so strongly connected with claims on the welfare state and crime. No group emphasises its differences so strongly in public, especially through women's clothing."
"In no other religion is the transition to violence, dictatorship and terrorism so fluid."
However, Sarrazin also remarked on the far more highly contentious issue of intelligence levels of differing cultures, claiming those of Muslims trailed Germans.
Not only did this also prompt strident criticism from some SPD colleagues, but the party's leadership intends assessing whether Sarrazin should be expelled since such views are said to contradict the party's values.
Sarrazin also stressed that the higher population growth rates amongst Muslims meant they would overwhelm Germans within a few generations. Germany, with a population of 82 million, now has about four million Turks who are seen as constituting a "parallel society".
Federal Chancellor Merkel and Bavarian Premier Seehofer's public repudiation of multiculturalism in Germany signals a fundamental shift within the conservative CDU-CSU alliance's leadership circle.
Merkel's apparent sympathy with the spirit if not the controversial wording of Sarrazin's hardline stance on integration is seen as recognition that growing numbers of German voters share his concerns about Germany's longer-term demographic fate with Muslims eventually constituting a dominant proportion of the country's population.
Turkish school children do not perform academically as well as German ones, and Muslim unemployment levels are higher, which means greater reliance on welfare.Oliver Marc Hartwich, research fellow at the Sydney-based Centre for Independent Studies, said: "
In Berlin, three-quarters of all Turkish migrants lack any school qualifications, and nearly half of the unemployed are of Turkish origin. Almost 40 per cent of all Berlin-based Turks get most of their income via welfare payments.
"When German politicians now say multiculturalism has failed, they only have themselves to blame. Maybe multiculturalism has not failed but German politicians are just not good at managing it. It was they who failed to spot and stop the developments that Sarrazin now describes. ...
"Germans are also learning the hard way that some groups are more willing to integrate into Western society than others. The debate is now about Islam for a reason. No integration issues are reported with respect to Danes, Poles or Vietnamese, all of whom live in Germany in great numbers." (The Australian
, October, 21, 2010).
Canadian columnist Margaret Wente has made similar observations of Germany. She recently wrote: "A few years ago, when I visited some of the Turkish neighbourhoods of Berlin, it was obvious that the German experiment with multiculturalism was in trouble.
"Many of Germany's four million Turks lived in a parallel society. The kids were doing badly in school and jobless rates were high.
"Girls were ruled by their patriarchal families. Muslim immigrants had become increasingly religious. A brisk trade in brides and grooms from backward parts of the old country ensured that nothing was likely to change soon. Yet few officials dared to raise these awkward facts in public. And the German political class has gone out of its way to avoid a serious debate on immigration.
"But now the tipping point has come.
"In a speech delivered Saturday, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, declared that multikulti
(as it's known in Germany) has been an abject failure.
"Ms Merkel was careful to say she doesn't oppose immigration altogether, or that people who don't speak German when they arrive are not welcome. Even so, plenty of the European media - and plenty of German politicians - have interpreted her remarks as a lurch to the hard right in the face of recent economic woes.
"In fact, she merely said what most Germans already believe. She said exactly what I had heard in Berlin from social workers, teachers and government officials who had worked with the Turkish community for years.
"The belief that multiculturalism has failed is now widespread across Europe, and it crosses party boundaries. In Germany, a recent survey found that 55 per cent of respondents think Muslims are a burden on the economy. Another study found that nearly a third of Germans agreed that 'foreigners come to abuse the welfare state' and that immigrants might 'overrun' the country." (Toronto Globe and Mail
, October 19, 2010).Joseph Poprzeczny is a Perth-based historian and freelance writer.