Sunday, March 6, 2011

Religious Tension Builds in Germany’s Relationship With Turkey

« Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves during a Turkish cultural event on February 27, in Duesseldorf, western Germany.
(Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sparked anger in Germany on February 27 as he suggested that Turks resist assimilation and learn Turkish, not German, as their first language.
“You must integrate, but I am against assimilation,” Erdogan told Turkish immigrants during a visit to Germany.
“No one should be able to rip us away from our culture,” he said.
The day before, Erdogan was quoted in the Rheinische Post saying that forced integration is against international law as it requires immigrants to suppress their culture and heritage.
His comments come as Germany is re-thinking its position on immigration and multiculturalism. Last year German Banker Thilo Sarrazin stirred the controversy by publishing a best-selling book claiming that Muslims and their failure to assimilate were the cause of many of the nation’s problems. Since then the leaders of Germany, Britain and France have all declared that multiculturalism doesn’t work.
Germany is looking for a new approach.
In this environment, Erdogan’s statement that “Our children must learn German but they must learn Turkish first” was bound to cause controversy, even though he qualified it by saying, “I want you to learn German, that your children learn German—they should study, get degrees. I want you to become doctors, professors and politicians in Germany.”
German ministers quickly responded. “Children growing up in Germany must learn German first,” said Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “The German language is the key to integration for those growing up in Germany.”
Integration Commissioner Maria Böhmer said: “The language of the country in which you’re going to live in the long run has to be the priority.”
Germany’s building confrontation with Islam was seen not just through these comments. The same paper that carried Erdogan’s remarks published comments by conservative parliamentary floor leader Volker Kauder accusing Turkey of discriminating against Christians.
Kauder said that land belonging to a Christian monastery in Turkey was being expropriated, showing that the nation lacked religious freedom. “I urge the EU to not open any more negotiation chapters with Turkey as long as Turkey does not guarantee full freedom of religion,” he said.
This issue doesn’t necessarily mean that relations between Germany and Turkey on a nation-to-nation level will become strained. It is Islam, not Turkey itself, that is becoming more unpopular in Germany.
As Christians are persecuted abroad and multiculturalism is abandoned at home, Europe, led by Germany, is moving toward a clash with the Islamic world.