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April 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 4)
Grapples with Integration
Paul Hefty, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (conservative),
Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 22, 2002
ever speaks about immigration without using the word integration,
but no one will say what integration really is. In the famous
outline document, which Otto Schily created in order to establish
himself as a thorough minister of the interior, the problem
of integrationincluding both laws and explanationsaccounts
for just five of the 252 pages.
Police in riot gear stand guard during a protest in support
of asylum seekers at a Frankfurt pre-deportation detention
center (Photo: AFP).
And this section is highly bureaucratic: Which courses will
be offered, who must attend them, and what will happen to those
who refuse the offer? What about people who merely sit there
during the German lessons? And will the knowledge
provided about the German legal system lead immigrants to accept,
exploit, or reject the German way of life?
These questions do not interest Schilythose who complete
the course are, ipso facto, integrated and can count
on the right to remain here and, eventually, to gain citizenship.
To the extent that government officials at the state and federal
level have argued about integration, the disputes have been
about who will pay for the courses, meaning paying for the German
teachers, the foreign interpreters, the classroomsand
not about the meaning of integration. Even the prime minister
of Bavaria [and candidate for chancellor in Germanys general
elections to be held this fallWPR], Edmund Stoiber,
admitted in the Bundesrat a month ago, We have, if we
are honest about it, no rigorous conception of it so far.
Two developments occurred between Schilys outline and
Stoibers confession: the formulation, on May 10, 2001,
of the Christian Socialist Unions (CSU) position paper
on immigration, and then Sept. 11. The [conservative] Christian
Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the [conservative]
CSU, did not merely sketch out the supply side of integration;
they also summarized what should be demanded: Integration
means more than being able to speak German and recognize our
legal system. It also includes...acceptance of the norms and
customs that the native population feels obliged to obey. This
means accepting the system of values of our Western, Christian
culture, which has been influenced by Christianity, ancient
philosophy, humanism, Roman law, and the Enlightenment.
Sept. 11 made it clear that these demands are not enough. German
authorities must recognize that foreigners will pretend to be
integrated while fighting with all their strength,
if necessary even sacrificing their lives, to harm the society
absorbing them. The phenomenon of sleepers is small,
but it eliminates any certainty in assessing whole strata of
No laws and no government agencies can prevent, in advance and
over the long run, crimes and criminals of the Al-Qaeda variety
unless the potential perpetrators themselves refrain from acting.
Nor can integration policies have, for example, the goal of
absolutely eliminating conflicts among foreigners themselves,
or between foreigners and Germans. What the policies must seek
is to see that such conflicts are settled according to the rules
accepted in Central European civilization and that they do not
result in bloodshed any more often than is typical for conflicts
among Germans. Nor is it principally an act of integration that
German government agencies and private groups are demanding
to increase the esteem in which girls and women of families
of Muslim or other cultures (such as Asian or African) are held.
Humanitarian organizations and the government pursue this goal,
together with respect for the rights of womennot just
for immigrants but in their homelands, too.
When Manfred Stolpe, the prime minister of Brandenburg, presented
his wish list of changes to Schilys document, under pressure
from his coalition partner, Interior Minister [of Brandenburg]
Jörg Schönbohm (CDU), there was no mention of integration.
For him, as well as Schönbohm, what is important are legal
prescriptions, not their effects.
The Bavarian Greens demanded that the German people work for
integration, including official and labor-law recognition of
Islamic holidays, the creation of quotas for people of various
immigrant backgrounds in civil service jobs, regular
broadcasts by Radio Bavaria in Arabic, and interreligious education
in schools that would present all religions on an equal basis.
Now the CSU faction in the state legislature has weighed in
with a paper titled Dialogue with Islam, attempting
to stake out part of the territory on integration policies.
This document affirms the necessity of a constructive
dialogue with our Muslim fellow citizens. But it stresses,
Our leading culture [is] the only basis on which a dialogue
on cultural and social-policy issues with our Muslim fellow
citizens may be conducted.
The West may not have any right to assume that the standards
of its civilization are accepted in other cultural circles;
however, we must expect that members of other cultural
traditions living in Germany will respect the laws and values
in effect here. The paper brings up the issue of the fundamental
compatibility of the Quran with the German constitution.
Spokesmen for the Caliphate [an Islamist organization suspected
of ties with Osama bin Laden], which was declared illegal in
Cologne a few months ago, rejected such compatibility. Now the
CSU faction in the legislature brings up the same issue: The
equality of men and women and priority of our laws over the
provisions of Sharia are absolute. What such a declaration
could mean in everyday lifegiven the Supreme Courts
[Jan. 16, 2002] decision on ritual slaughterdoes not take
much imagination to see. [The courts decision permits
ritual slaughter of animals according to Muslim law, i.e., without
anesthetics. The same provision had already been in effect for
years for Jewish ritual slaughter. Ritual slaughter had come
under fire in Germany because it was seen as cruelty toward
Germanys legal system provides many avenues for going
to court to get laws redefined. The CSU seeks to head that off.
Any divided loyalties, which would put ethnic or religious
ties above loyalty to the constitution, are unacceptable to
Obviously, the chairman of Bavarias CSU, Alois Glück,
and his team had only a part of the foreign population in mind
in this statement on integration policy: They were considering
only the Islamic aspects. It is true, of course, that the 3.2
million Muslims represent the largest formally identified segment
of the 7.3 million foreigners in Germany.
But the question of how the foreigners now living here, and
those who will arrive in the future, ought to be integrated
must be answered, as well as what being integrated actually
means. Both questions must be answered for all those people
who, unlike the 1.9 million citizens of the European Union living
in Germany, do not enjoy complete freedom of movement.