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How Turks feel in Germany

Danial Pelz / dcJune 16, 2016

Germany may be home, but many don't feel accepted: A new study reveals what ethnic Turks think about religion and integration, with many putting Islam above the law and some even justifying violence to expand Islam.

Deutschland Muslime
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Schlesinger

The authors of the study were pleased with some of their results: 90 percent of the people of Turkish origin surveyed said they feel comfortable in Germany. Eighty-seven percent said that they feel closely or very closely connected to Germany. That's 2 percent more than the number who said they felt a close connection to Turkey.

"We didn't expect that," said Detlef Pollack, spokesman for the Excellence Cluster "Religion and Politics" at the University of Münster. The university commissioned an opinion research institute to survey 1,200 Turkish immigrants and their children for the study.

More positive outlook than East Germans

The representative survey, titled "Integration and religion from the perspective of people of Turkish origin," includes more surprises. In some respects, most of the people surveyed had a more positive view of the situation in Germany than many Germans themselves.

"If you compare Turkish immigrants with East Germans, you see that East Germans feel they've been treated more unfairly in reunified Germany than Turkish immigrants do," said Pollack while presenting the results of the study in Berlin.

But that's not to say that Turkish immigrants don't have any complaints. Some 54 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: "No matter how hard I try, I am not accepted as a part of German society."

Autoren der Studie Integration und Religion aus Sicht Türkeistämmiger
The authors of the study (left to right): Prof. Dr. Detlef Pollack, Dr. Olaf Müller and Dr. Gergely RostaImage: Sarah Batelka

Too few executives of Turkish origin

That doesn't come as a surprise for Gökay Sofuoglu, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD). His association represents around 200 Turkish organizations in the country. "The results of the study are in line with the observations I make on a daily basis," Sofuoglu told DW. He says that rejection and discrimination are part of everyday life for many people of Turkish origin living in Germany. Climbing the career ladder is still particularly difficult. "If you look at city administrations, public service or schools, it's still very rare to see Turkish people in leadership positions," said Sofuoglu.

The researchers from Münster also say more attention needs to be paid to the particular situation of Turkish people in Germany. "The message to the majority population is that we should be more sensitive to the problems that people of Turkish origin encounter. At the same time, it's also true that many Turkish immigrants feel very comfortable here," said Pollack.

TGD Chairman Sofuoglu thinks both sides have a responsibility. He says the German state should show more respect for the Turkish language and for Islam, and ensure that everyone who has lived here for a long time can vote in municipal elections. But he adds that there's work to be done by Turkish immigrants and Turkish organizations as well. "The Turkish associations need to participate more, show more loyalty to the German state and the German constitution," Sofuoglu said.

High willingness to accept violence

A perceived lack of acceptance has consequences: "It's our view that this feeling of not being accepted is expressed in the vehement defense of Islam," Pollack said. Half of all the respondents said that Islam is the only true religion.

Almost half of those surveyed agreed with the following statement: "It is more important to obey religious laws than state laws."

Some 36 percent said that only Islam is in a position to resolve the current problems facing society, and 7 percent said violence is justified if the aim is the expansion of Islam.

"You have to take this seriously. The willingness to accept violence is significantly high," said Pollack. "This is, of course, also a sounding board for the perpetration of violent acts," the study's author said. The antidote to fundamentalism is a well-known combination: education, solid German skills, jobs, and social contact with non-Muslims.