Germany prints its constitution in Arabic for refugees | News | DW | 30.09.2015
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Germany prints its constitution in Arabic for refugees

Germany has translated 20 articles of its constitution into Arabic to help migrants integrate. Chancellor Angela Merkel says the arrival of hundreds of thousands of new residents marks a watershed in German politics.

Adopted in 1949, Germany's "Basic Law" sets out the country's defining postwar principles. As the country prepares to take in up to 800,000 people this year, officials have expressed optimism that an Arabic translation of selected sections could help them assimilate.

"I am convinced that the first 20 articles of our constitution are what shape our culture," Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told the mass-circulation daily Bild, adding that Germany had printed 10,000 copies for distribution among refugees at registration centers. "What is important for our culture is that the principles of our democratic society apply to everyone," he said.

In a nod to common anxieties, Gabriel said refugees would have to accept secular governance and the declared right to freely express one's sexual identity. Acknowledging another worry commonly expressed by politicians and press, Gabriel also said that Germany officially did not tolerate anti-Semitism.

"People who come here must not only learn the German language, but also learn the rules of the game of living together," said Gabriel, who also serves as party boss for the centrist Social Democrats.

'It touches us'

Angela Merkel has said the arrival of new residents could prove a transformative moment for Germany. Since the chancellor decided in early September to open the country's borders to thousands of people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia - though primarily Syrians fleeing the country's four-year civil war - Merkel has faced considerable backlash from members of her conservative parliamentary bloc. In the face of that, Germany has temporarily reimposed checks at frontiers and airports in the nominally border-free Schengen Zone.

"If we think about the refugees, we realize that what happens in Syria, in Afghanistan no longer takes place somewhere far away, but basically at our front door," Merkel said on Wednesday. "It touches us."

So far this year, Germany has taken in about 500,000 applicants for asylum, putting them up in flats, army barracks, sports halls and tent cities. Mobs have attacked more than 400 homes for asylum applicants this year alone, even as Germany strives to present a "welcoming culture" to new arrivals.

"It will change our politics radically and shift the emphasis once more," Merkel said on Wednesday. "Every age brings its own challenges."

mkg/kms (Reuters, dpa, AP)