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Germany

"Headscarves are the Opposite of Integration"

Wolfgang Bosbach

Wolfgang Bosbach is the conservatives' point man on integration and immigration.

DW-WORLD: Foreigners make up nearly one-tenth of Germany's population. Is Germany an immigrant country?

Wolfgang Bosbach: That's purely a question of definition. One can say a country is an immigrant country when there's a noteworthy amount of immigration. Of course, Germany is an immigrant country, like all countries. However, one can also say -- and this definition seems the right one to me -- a country only becomes an immigrant country when it recruits immigrants. That's something we stopped doing in 1973.

We recruited immigrants for 18 years, from 1954 to 1973. Then we recruited guest workers to come and work and then to leave again. What we experienced was that they came, they worked here, but many of them stayed and brought over their families.

In recent years, we have all come to the conclusion that we need a systematic integration policy under the heading "encourage but also demand."

What is successful integration?

Integration is a success when you say, "I didn't just come to Germany to work, to live, to have a better life than I did at home. Instead, I have found a new home in Germany." That thought describes the situation better.

Ausländer in Berlin-Kreuzberg

"Germans have to learn to approach immigrants."

More than just learning the language is necessary, including being oriented in social relations, the country's history. On the one side, immigrants must be prepared to put effort into becoming integrated and to adapt to the Germans. On the other side, Germans have to learn to approach immigrants. We have to approach each other.

Has integration made progress in Germany or has it regressed?

We have done both at the same time. On the one hand, there's no doubt that millions of immigrants have become superbly integrated, that they are our neighbors in the best sense of the word, that we don't view them as foreigners 'in quotation marks' anymore. They are our colleagues, our teammates. They play a role in local organizations and in church communities.

On the other hand, especially in the big cities, where we have a high concentration of foreigners, parallel societies have developed. That's not good for integration. If my neighbor, my baker, my butcher, my doctor, my lawyer are foreigners like me, why should I make an effort to become integrated, since I already get along fine.

Is wearing a headscarf compatible with integration?

No, the headscarf is the opposite of integration.

It's not for me to comment on -- and certainly not to criticize -- whether someone wears a headscarf as an expression of her religious convictions. That is the individual's decision. Just as you probably cannot force someone to become integrated.

But we have to differentiate between wearing a headscarf in public and wearing a headscarf when working as a civil servant. It's different, for example, with a teacher, who the children cannot avoid. We can't tolerate that. That is no longer an issue of private convictions.

But, the headscarf is not only an expression of religious conviction. Rather, it is also a symbol of social separation. In a Judeo-Christian culture, one consciously dissociates oneself from the majority society with a headscarf.

Can a devout Muslim become an integrated German citizen?

I don't doubt that at all. In a country marked by Judeo-Christianity there's no question about which faith is more

Tänzerin Tag der Türken in Berlin

"In a country marked by Judeo-Christianity there's no question about which faith is more important."

important. We have freedom of religion. We don't have a state religion. We have the separation between church and state. I have respect for every devout Muslim. Why shouldn't they apply for German citizenship?

Does Islam have a future in Germany and Europe?

Islam is advancing and not just in Europe. No one questions Islam's right to exist. We are a very tolerant country. But tolerance must end, where religious convictions lead to totalitarian pretenses, where people aim to demolish our state and legal system to establish a theocracy based on Islam.

Why has Germany failed to pass an immigration law yet?

People sometimes get the impression we don't have any legislation on foreigners in Germany. We do have a foreigners law, asylum laws, a multitude of regulations. Now the question is whether the new Social Democratic-Green immigration bill is in the country's interest, whether it will create more problems or solve more problems.

If we agree, we will have an entirely new immigration law. For the Social Democratic-Green bill is not an amendment to the existing foreigner legislation. Rather, it is an entirely new law. If we don't agree the existing legislation will remain.