Germany: Obstacles prevent integration

Selected quotes from an article about Muslims in Germany.

Dr. Johannes Urban, an official at Germany's Federal Ministry of the Interior, stressed the German government's will for Muslim integration into German society, but he sees some obstacles retarding such integration.

For example, the rate of Muslim women attending school is less than non-Muslim women. Also, most young Muslims don't speak German, which means they can't find a job easily. Urban also referred to discussions about the choice of most Muslim parents to prevent their daughters from participating in swimming classes, sex education classes and camping trips.


"It's not only Muslim attitudes and practices that make their integration into German society difficult," says Lina Ganamah of the Arab Women's Forum in Berlin, explaining that historical and social reasons also contribute to Muslims' isolation.

In the 1960s, Germany opened its doors to immigrants to address an acute labor shortage during a period of rapid economic development by inviting "guest workers" from less developed countries to do jobs for which Germans were unavailable. Under agreements with foreign governments, these workers were expected to stay for a fixed term and leave when their services no longer were needed.

Many of the original guest workers (Italians, Greeks and other southern Europeans) did return to their native countries; however, subsequent groups of guest workers, mostly Muslim Yugoslavs, Turks and North Africans, stayed and eventually brought their families to join them.

However, they and their children remained largely segregated from German society, living in their own communities and sometimes having little contact with their host society. "Now, there's the fourth generation of these immigrants, but most of them don't speak German and most are jobless," Ganamah noted.

Regarding the German education system, she says the Muslim community has difficulty adapting to such a system and compared to their non-Muslim classmates, Muslim students' marks aren't good. "In fact, most Muslim parents don't push their children to acquire further education or knowledge because they themselves lack education," Ganamah says.

She points out that many parents want to instill their Islamic and cultural values in their children, but think Muslim women believe that wearing hijab is part of their religious freedom. k certain classes, such as sex education or sports classes for girls, may impact their children's attitudes toward those values.


Nezar Ahmed, a second generation Muslim in Germany, mentioned his frustration at not being able to pray in a "real" mosque. According to him, most Muslims in Germany pray in mosques hidden from view in old factory buildings and basements. "Most Germans wouldn't accept a more traditional looking mosque in their neighborhood," he said, noting that building traditional mosques often is controversial.

Aydin agrees that there are controversies in some German states related to building mosques. "However, today, more and more mosques are being built in Germany in the classic Oriental style. In German cities like Cologne, a muezzin calls devout Muslims to prayer, at least in those neighborhoods where people aren't bothered by the loudspeaker."


Sabiha Al-Zayat, who works at the Islamic Women's Center for Research and Encouragement, commented, "In the past, maybe five years ago, wearing the hijab wasn't a big deal, but nowadays, wearing the hijab has become a serious issue discussed in Parliament." She adds that nearly 30 Muslim teachers have left their jobs due to insisting upon wearing hijab.

The hijab controversy can create other problems delaying Muslims' integration.


[Ed: I think this last interviewee sums it up the best.  When you are practically born in a country and still think of it as "their country" and see learning in the public school system as something exceptional, don't be surprised that "they" don't see you as part of "them".]

Sema Tozoglee, 24, immigrated with her Turkish parents to Germany when she was only a year old. She now lives in Bonne with her Muslim German husband.

"I'm doing my best to integrate into German society. I speak their language, I studied in their schools, I married a German guy… I do whatever I can to increase my ability to be treated as a German citizen," she explains, pointing out that despite these efforts, she still suffers as a Muslim in a secular community.

"When I was 18, I decided to wear the hijab, but I then noticed Germans looking at me for being different." Her friend Huelya, also wearing hijab, stresses that their insistence upon wearing it is the reason for not being employed in many occupations, although they are qualified.

Source: Yemen Times (English)

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