German Book Channels Public’s Immigrant Angst

Mielissa Eddy, WTOP-FM (Washington, D.C.), September 15, 2010

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By suggesting that Muslims’ inability, or unwillingness, to speak German may be linked to their DNA, [Thilo] Sarrazin broke a post-Nazi taboo on foraying into genetic theories. {snip}

The massive success of Sarrazin’s book [Germany Abolishes Itself] has cracked open growing anti-immigrant anger among many Germans, who fear that their language, culture and generosity is being abused by newcomers, especially Muslims, who they say live off their welfare state without contributing to it.

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But supporters say Sarrazin’s criticisms are simply meant to make a point about what is expected of newcomers to Germany.

“We are not far-right extremists, we just want the people who come here to contribute something, to be polite and learn the language. Nothing more,” said Mike Temme, a doctor.

Temme was among a lively crowd of several hundred in Berlin who paid to hear Sarrazin debate his book, “Germany Abolishes Itself.” Support for the ex-banker was palpable as the crowd applauded his defense of his theories and drowned out any participants who questioned Sarrazin’s use of genetic theory or accused him of manipulating data.

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The “truth,” according to Sarrazin, is that Germans “have accepted as inevitable that Germany will be smaller and dumber.”

“The three immigrant groups with the largest educational deficit and the highest social welfare costs, are also those with the highest rate of reproduction,” Sarrazin writes, citing Turks, immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and from the Middle East.

But plenty of Germans fear that Sarrazin, with his history of provocative statements and the stature of high office at the Deutsche Bundesbank, is fanning fires that will be hard to put out. Even before the book hit stores two weeks ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned its tone, saying the “ostracism and the contempt are unacceptable.”

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According to a survey by ZDF public television, 56 percent of Germans say Sarrazin’s criticism is justified, and many immigrants are feeling uneasy.

“I am worried about my Germany,” said Samadi Ahadi, 38, a filmmaker who immigrated from Iran as a child and obtained German citizenship. He said the increase in discrimination since the book’s release is felt on the streets and public transport, without elaborating.

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Hardening attitudes toward Muslims are felt in many European countries. But these are generally spearheaded by the far-right, whereas Sarrazin, 65, belongs to the traditional, center-left Social Democratic Party, which is moving to expel him. {snip}

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“They are sick of being cursed or laughed at when they offer assistance with integration. And they are tired about reading about Islamist associations that have one degree of separation from terrorism, of honor killings, of death threats against cartoonists and filmmakers,” Matussek []Matthias Matussek] wrote in his blog for Der Spiegel’s online edition.

The heated debate has left leaders struggling for a response.

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Government research found that 37 percent of the 15- to 19-year-olds of immigrant background lack a high school diploma, required for nearly any form of employment here, and that 72 percent of Turkish-descended men aged of 20 to 64 lack basic job training.

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