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November 25, 2004

Comments

Michael

Sir,

Schmidt may have put things crudely (I haven't read the interview myself), but the underlying issue is very real. Unlike all other immigrant communities that have come to Germany since the sixties, the Turks alone have not blended into German life. To a large extent they form a group apart, don't easily mix and mingle with Germans (native-born or naturalized), let alone intermarry with them freely. Their youth have a reputation for uncouth and thuggish behavior - well deserved, as I can myself attest -, and generally the crime rate among them is notably higher than the nationwide average (again also compared against other long-time immigrant communities).

Against this background, and generally against the rise of violence emanating from self-identified Muslims, as well as folks from Muslim lands more generally, the present left-wing German government, in contemptuous disregard for widespread uneasiness among the people (dismissed as an expression of chauvinism, if not outright Nazism), is pushing hard for an admission of Turkey into the EU. This and the presence of close on 3 million unassimilated Turks in Germany is the context in which the Schmidt interview needs to be seen.

Would it not be legimate to ask: How many Mexicans can the US tolerate? The situation might be comparable, only that with the Turks in Germany Islam to an extent comes into play as an additional aggravating factor.

Best wishes,
Michael

Abiola Lapite

"Unlike all other immigrant communities that have come to Germany since the sixties, the Turks alone have not blended into German life."

Which begs the question of why they haven't blended in. Might not the antipathy towards them generated in "real" Germans by their non-European origins have something to do with that?

"Their youth have a reputation for uncouth and thuggish behavior - well deserved, as I can myself attest"

Social and economic marginalization has a habit of breeding such behavior in youth; I'm sure you're familiar with the Irish, Jewish and Italian criminal gangs of American eras gone by? You confuse cause and effect in blaming the misbehavior of their youth for the cold reception Turks meet with in Germany.

"This and the presence of close on 3 million unassimilated Turks in Germany is the context in which the Schmidt interview needs to be seen."

And you don't think that the steadfast refusal of the German government up until 1999 to make it straightforward for these immigrants to acquire German citizenship might have had anything to do with that?

"Would it not be legimate to ask: How many Mexicans can the US tolerate?"

I'd say no, it wouldn't be legitimate, any more than it would have been legitimate for a then overwhelmingly Protestant America to ask "How many starving, illiterate Irishmen/Italians/Poles can the US tolerate?"

"The situation might be comparable, only that with the Turks in Germany Islam to an extent comes into play as an additional aggravating factor."

From the evidence Islam comes into play as an "additional aggravating factor" only because "real" Germans have helped to bring it about, by insisting on treating youths who were born in Germany and have grown up speaking only German as "immigrants", unwelcome guests in the body politic. It should hardly come as a surprise that said immigrants look elsewhere for an identity when "Germanness" is denied them by the society they inhabit.

Michael

M: "Unlike all other immigrant communities that have come to Germany since the sixties, the Turks alone have not blended into German life."

A: "Which begs the question of why they haven't blended in."

M: Very true. While I would not deny that some German attitudes over the decades haven't exactly been helpful, I would invite you not to be ovberly dogmatic in your approach and consider the possibility that Turkish attitudes also played a role in this - indeed the paramount one. After all, xenophobic German attitudes, insofar as they existed, initially applied to all immigrant communities. I can vividly remember, e.g., how people in my childhood and youth (up to mid-80s) had strong reservations against Italians, the second largest immigrant community, as well. By now that has, for all practical purposes, vanished. If it has not vis-a-vis the Turks, should that not be considered as an argument that Turkish attitudes also played an important role in the (non-)process?

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M: "Their youth have a reputation for uncouth and thuggish behavior - well deserved, as I can myself attest."

A: "Social and economic marginalization has a habit of breeding such behavior in youth ... You confuse cause and effect in blaming the misbehavior of their youth for the cold reception Turks meet with in Germany."

M: (a) Again, why does the same phenomenon not exist among youth of Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Croatian ... descent in Germany? (b) Maybe it's you who confuses cause and effect here: Could it be that the same macho mentality that spawns thuggish behavior in deplorably many young Turks or Germans of Turkish descent today is also responsible for their relatively poor economic performance in society?

As to the importance of Islam, let me just point out that it is not Germany alone that has a problem with immigrants from such a cultural and religious background. No, you see it all over Europe (and elsewhere), even in countries like Holland, Denmark or Sweden which, unlike Germany, do not have a reputation of being illiberal places inhabited by a "native" population with a largely xenophobic or racialist mindset. This to my mind is further evidence that the problem in this case largely lies with attitudes of the immigrants.

Ian Jennings

Abiola, the headline is better translated as "How much Anatolia can Europe take?".

I am in the unusual position of thinking a) that political correctness is to be despised, b) the Dutch have been fools who had it coming, and c) the Germans are much less likely to have the same kind of problem. I (an Anglophone white/Christian immigrant) live in Kreuzberg, the most Muslim area in Germany, and send my kids to a 60% Turkish kindergarten. There just doesn't seem to be any tension between Turks and Germans there at all. Let's hope it stays this way.

I also don't think, by the way, that Helmut Schmidt is going to get away without being criticised. I'd bet a lot of money on the German left going ballistic when they read the interview. It should also be said, though, that the German left is a lot more careful about anti-Semitism than, say, the French, Italian, or Spanish left, and this will probably mean that the German state will stamp harder and earlier on Islamic militants than might be the case in, say, France.

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