Via the Economist:
HOW well does Halime Cengiz fit into Germany? A “typical guest worker’s child”, she wears a hijab and spends much time at the Mevlana mosque in Gröpelingen, a Bremen neighbourhood with many immigrants. She has a German passport but “would never say I’m German” (or Turkish). She calls herself “a Bremer with Turkish roots”. Yet she also speaks flawless German. Neither her marriage nor her veil was forced on her. Part of her mosque work is with churches, lowering barriers between Muslims and Christians. She urges parents to send their children to kindergarten to improve their German. The parents fret about their children becoming “too German”, but Mrs Cengiz allays such fears. She may be a model migrant after all.
Even Germans who disagree with Mr Sarrazin praise him for drawing attention to a problem. Actually he may be making the situation worse.
Some 15m people in Germany have a “migration background” (ie, immigrants or their offspring), second only to America. Some 4m are ethnic Germans from the former communist block. But many others came as guest workers in the 1950s and 1960s, especially from Turkey. On indicators of social and economic health, these migrants lag. In Bremen, where more than half the young children are from migrant stock, they are less likely to go to kindergarten than native Germans. Just 8% of foreign teenagers are in vocational training, compared with 37% of Germans. In a city struggling to recover from a slump in shipbuilding, 16.4% of migrants were unemployed in 2008, against 7.5% of native Germans. More than 40% live below the poverty line, three times the rate for non-migrants.
It is no surprise that joining the German mainstream is hard for children of manual labourers who were once expected to return home. In big cities they crowd together and go to schools from which native German children have fled, making it harder to integrate, says Stefan Luft, a scholar at the University of Bremen. Turks are especially prone to living in a parallel world because there are so many of them. For too many immigrants the dole is an acceptable alternative to work. Islam can be an additional barrier, but only for Muslims who choose to make it one. One study estimated that 10-12% of Muslims have radical Islamist leanings, and a quarter of Muslim teenagers are hostile to Christians and Jews or to democracy.
In Bremen the ugly turn in the debate makes it harder to achieve even scaled-back integration. Co-operation with migrants has been “massively damaged,” says Mr Heintze. Mrs Cengiz says “many families are seriously thinking about going back to Turkey.” Germany’s president, Christian Wulff, tried to undo the damage by saying that Islam “belongs to Germany”. But he is outshouted.
Bremen, a city-state, wants a climate in which such pronouncements are too obvious to be worth making. In its schools migrants are the norm, not “a small group with special needs,” says Yasemin Karakasoglu of the University of Bremen. At the city’s request she is designing a new curriculum for training teachers, which may use a child’s mother tongue when necessary and also look for new ways to educate Muslim pupils about Germany’s crimes against Jews. Germans’ idea of what it is to be German will have to change too, she thinks. Bremers may be ready for this. Most Germans, it seems, are not