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Opinion: Scare-Mongering Jeopardizes Integration

Rainer Sollich (jp)December 3, 2004

As the German Bundestag's conference on German-Arab relations enters its third and final day Friday, DW's Rainer Sollich looks at how integration of Muslims is being complicated by fears of fundamentalism.

Many Muslims in Germany feel their religion makes them public pariahsImage: AP

The "Arab World Days" saw some 300 representatives from political and cultural institutions in the Arab world and Europe gather in Berlin to focus on issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the fight against fundamentalism.

Wolfgang Bosbach
Wolfgang BosbachImage: dpa

But amid the calls for greater tolerance and transparency, deputy chairman of the CDU's parliamentary group Wolfgang Bosbach (photo) proposed deporting Muslims suspected of being "potentially violent."


Many would agree that even if the county's three million Muslims include just 3,000 extremists, the state is justified in resorting to extreme protective measures -- the same measures it would use against German and non-Muslim extremists, such as surveillance by domestic intelligence services and criminal proceedings in the case of proven offences. Crucially, however, anyone without a German passport can theoretically be deported.

Nonetheless, accusing Muslim fundamentalists of being "potentially violent" is far from easy to back up, and hardly constitutes legal grounds for expulsion. Bosbach's plan to throw some 3,000 suspected extremists out of the country overnight is little more than populism. Only those who offend against existing laws can be deported -- in other words, anyone who perpetrates violence or anyone who can be proved to have incited violence.

Metin Kaplan in der Türkei
Metin Kaplan after deportation to TurkeyImage: AP

The case of the "Caliph of Cologne," Metin Kaplan (pictured), a Muslim fundamentalist recently deported to Turkey after several years of legal wrangling, showed how complicated extradition can be -- and how long it can take before the courts reach a binding decision.

Public pariahs

In Germany, the question of Muslim and Turkish integration is linked to the debate about potentially violent fundamentalism to a dangerous extent. Even though politicians across the board are quick to stress that the majority of Muslims living in Germany are peaceful and law-abiding, public debate descends all too often into a far less differentiated rhetoric.

Increasingly, Muslims feel their religion makes them public pariahs -- not a good basis for successful integration. And a recent study shows that xenophobia is once again on the rise in Germany.

Investing in integration projects

Türken in Deutschland Frauen mit Kopftuch
Turkish women in Germany often tend to stay among themselvesImage: AP

Rather than wasting their time with theoretical discussions about what should constitute a "defining" German culture, or "Leitkultur," it's time politicians used their common sense and invested more funds in integration projects. Anyone who wants to help minorities integrate is wasting their time insisting on pledges of allegiance to the German constitution.

What they have to do instead is provide education and language courses. Training imams and Muslim teachers at German schools, moreover, would not only be one way of reducing the risk of inflammatory preaching in German mosques, it would also be a gesture of recognition to the Muslim community.

Politicians should also stop insisting the country's Muslims distance themselves from fundamentalism and terrorist activity perpetrated in the name of Islam.

Betende in der Al-Nur Moschee in Berlin
Al-Nur Mosque in BerlinImage: dpa

It may seem like a reasonable demand -- but what exactly is expected from Germany's mainly Turkish Muslim community? Should it take to the streets in protest every time a terrorist attack takes place in Cairo, Riyadh or Jakarta?

Adding to the problem is the fact Germany lacks an organization tasked with representing the majority of Muslims. Even if the many rival associations were to join forces, most Muslims in Germany don't belong to religious groups -- and have little interest in ever changing that.