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    Germany to take steps to integrate Turkish community

    HotNewsTurkey Staff
    27 Ekim 2008 - 11:47Son Güncelleme : 27 Ekim 2008 - 12:54

    Placing immigrant integration into society at the center of state policy after years of denial and neglect, the German government is finally dedicating time, money and energy for progress on this still unresolved matter, the Turkish Daily News (TDN) wrote on Monday.

    The diagnosis of the "disease" by the coalition government led by Germany’s first female chancellor, Angela Merkel, a Christian Democrat elected in 2005, is seen by Turkey as a significant turning point after years of implementing a so-called denial policy. 

    The German government has long ignored the parallel societies arising from differing social, cultural and religious traditions of the Turkish immigrants that began arriving in the country in the 1960s under the guest worker scheme.

    Turkey may also be to blame for failing to develop strategies to help its citizens integrate into German society, considering them sources of capital flow back to the country.

    Mostly from the country’s underdeveloped eastern provinces, Turkey’s guest workers had been expected to return home, however governments failed to better conditions in the region they left giving immigrants little reason to return.

    The Turkish immigrant community, which numbers about 2.5 million, faced an apparent lack of interest both from Turkey and Germany.
     
    HIGHLIGHTING RELIGIOUS IDENTITY
    The current German government accepts Turkish immigrants as permanent residents and is seeking ways to deal with the issues they face.  

    Until recently the integration problem was evaluated within the concept of modernization, as a large majority of the first wave of Turkish immigrants were unqualified workers from low-income family groups. The integration of Turkish immigrants today is mostly associated with religious identity and Turks in Germany are often described as members of the Muslim community.

    Emphasis on religious identity has become an issue across Europe with the rise of Islamophobia in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Claims of a tendency among the Turkish community in Germany to shift into radical organizations have also risen.

    "9/11 is partly responsible for this misunderstanding in the West that confines the identity to a single element – religion," Cem Ozdemir, German politician of Turkish descent from the Green Party, was quoted by the TDN as saying.

    "Islam is seen as the most different religion, a perception that sparks fears because the majority of the Turks in Germany are Muslims," he said.

    Ozdemir has also been subjected to similar treatment because of his ethnic origins.

    "A couple of years ago when the U.S. secretary of state came to Germany I was invited as a politician to attend a meeting in her honor. Later I was invited for the second time for a similar event and was listed as the ‘Muslim leader' in the invitation. While thinking whether or not to attend, I was curious to see the other Muslim leaders and finally decided to join the meeting. Those who were sitting next to me were my deputy friends of Turkish origin as well as the leaders of Turkish organizations in Germany. I asked them since when they were Muslim leaders and in return they asked me the same question. All of us were there out of curiosity."

    Many elements shape an identity and religion is only one of them, says Ozdemir.

    "A German is free to say he's a Bayer Munich fan, a heterosexual, a Bavarian, a Catholic or a Protestant … But Turks are equated only with religion. This very wrong approach is quite common in the West," he said.

    Photo: AFP

     

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