header image
Home arrow Burqah Politics arrow Burqah-related Media and Books arrow As in German, Thilo Sarrazin also comes across as a white supremicist/racist in English
As in German, Thilo Sarrazin also comes across as a white supremicist/racist in English PDF Print E-mail

images/stories/spiegelonline_logo.png Berlin ~ January 20 2011
'Well, I Want You to Integrate'
Germany's Integration Provocateur Goes English

By Carsten Volkery
images/stories/ThiloSarrazin.jpg Former German central banker Thilo Sarrazin has divided Germany with his book on integration.(Getty Images)

Former German central banker Thilo Sarrazin has been touting his controversial book on integration for months. This week, he went on BBC -- and managed to sound even more outrageous in English than he does in German. His advice? If you are discriminated against for wearing a headscarf, leave the country.

It was left up to Thilo Sarrazin to introduce himself at the beginning. "Hello, this is Thilo Sarrazin. I am glad to speak to you on BBC 'Have Your Say.' ... I am the author of a book which can be named in English 'Germany Is Doing Itself Away.'"

images/stories/ThiloSarrazinShutUp.jpg A demonstrator in Berlin holds a placard with a portrait of Thilo Sarrazin above the words "shut up."

It is a book which has dominated Germany's integration debate for months, and one which has generated a passionate response -- both acceptance and rejection -- from people across the country. The book claims, among other assertions, that Turkish immigrants in the country have detracted, rather than contributed to, the country's prosperity. He also claims, as he said early on in the BBC program broadcast on Tuesday, that "the brightest people get the fewest babies." Or, as the idea is formulated in his book, immigrants, because of their lower levels of education and what he claims are higher birth rates, are making Germany dumber on average.

It was a tantalizing start to the latest edition of what has become a well-known debate in Germany and abroad. For 50 minutes, Sarrazin -- whose book has been at the top of Germany's bestseller lists for weeks -- held forth on his opinions about Muslims. He discussed his book with callers from Great Britain, Germany, the United States and elsewhere in the world -- and didn't seem concerned that his ideas sound even crasser in English than they do in German. The program can be found HERE

'Care and Deliberation'
Most of the callers were much more comfortable speaking English than Sarrazin. But he didn't let it bother him. On the BBC, he demonstrated the practiced comfort he has won from the dozens of presentations, readings and book discussions he has held across Germany since his book hit the shelves in August. He warned that political correctness is a danger to democracy and rejected accusations that he was fomenting divisions in his home country.

Several times, he repeated his go-to argument that he was merely presenting "facts." One of those, he made clear on the BBC, is that "the Jewish people were overachievers, part of the Muslim people are underachievers." There were some listeners on Sarrazin's side. A man named Jörg from the German state of Lower Saxony called in to say that he would vote for Sarrazin were he to start his own political party.

But the majority of the reactions were critical. In response to an accusation that he was a fascist, Sarrazin coolly answered that everyone is responsible for their own rhetoric. He himself, he said, had always striven for "care and deliberation." In answer to a question as to why he wrote such a book when he is clearly not an expert for immigration and integration, he claimed to be an expert in statistics.

For much of his career, the statistics Sarrazin dealt with related to finance. For years, he served the city-state of Berlin as finance minister before moving over to the German Central Bank in 2009. A member of the center-left Social Democrats, Sarrazin's blunt statements on all manner of issues ("civil servants are pale and foul-smelling") have long been notorious in Germany. By September 2010, the Central Bank had had enough and pressured him to resign. The SPD is likewise exploring the possibility of throwing him out of the party.

'You Could Live in the US or Turkey'
On the BBC, the lowpoint came towards the end of the program, when Kübra, the daughter of Turkish guest workers in Germany, asked Sarrazin pointed questions about her own situation. Earlier in the program, he had denied that discrimination is much of a problem for Muslims. "In Germany, Turkish and Arab people are not more discriminated against than Italians or Polish," he said. But Kübra, a journalist from Hamburg, told Sarrazin that she had been insulted on the streets because she wears a headscarf and asked him what she should do.

Sarrazin's answer? It's her own problem. "Well, I want you to integrate," he responded. "If you wear the headscarf it's your own choice but if you wear the headscarf you should not be surprised if you are regarded by your environment as something separate. Those who wear the headscarf in the Germany separate themselves from on their own account from the mainstream of society of their own choice. It is your own choice to wear a headscarf and to live in Germany. You could as well live in the US or Turkey."

An odd piece of advice to someone who has grown up in Germany. Indeed, Sarrazin sought to quickly change the subject. "In Berlin Neukölln, girls who wear a light summer dress are discriminated against by the Turks and Arabs," he said. "That's a fact in this country."

Kübra asked the author if he was aware of the emotional environment that he has created in Germany. Sarrazin coolly replied: "A Turkish woman who lives in Germany told me some weeks ago, please don't take those aggravations too seriously. Oriental people tend to play with their emotions and love to raise guilt in others. This is a quote from a Turkish woman."

Does he share this assessment, the BBC moderator wanted to know? "This has been my experience over the past five months." Kübra's ultimate question, however, went unanswered: "You have just said a couple of minutes ago that we have to do everything to improve integration," she said. "But how are you going to integrate people if you always alienate them?"

Thilo Sarrazin's Urge to Provoke

A Jewish gene, foul-smelling civil servants and immigrants producing little girls in headscarves: German Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin has never been afraid to provoke. SPIEGEL ONLINE has assembled some of his most outrageous statements HERE

images/stories/Guardian_logo.gif London ~ Tuesday 31 August 2010, page 21
Bundesbank executive provokes race outcry with book
Merkel leads calls for Thilo Sarrazin to be sacked over remarks about migrants being 'unfit or unwilling to integrated' into society

By Kate Connolly in Berlin
images/stories/ThiloSarrazinQuit.jpg Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin is facing calls to quit. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has called for the dismissal from the central bank of a prominent board member who has repeatedly said that Muslim immigrants in Germany are unfit and unwilling to integrate into society.

The Bundesbank said that comments made by Thilo Sarrazin in a highly publicised new book were harmful to the bank and violated its code of conduct. It said it would meet with the banker before deciding about his future.

Sarrazin has unleashed an impassioned debate about Germany's immigrant population by saying that the behaviour of its members is putting the country under threat.

His thesis, set out in a book published today , has stoked the wrath of politicians, and Muslim and Jewish groups, and led to calls for his dismissal from his €230,000 a year (£188,000) Bundesbank post and from the Social Democratic party (SPD).

Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said that Sarrazin's remarks had "clearly damaged the national and international standing of the bank" and managers should consider his future.

But Sarrazin has received the backing of others who say the former politician is merely outlining issues and concerns about integration that have remained taboo for too long.

In Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab, or Germany is Digging its Own Grave, Sarrazin argues that most of the country's immigrants cannot be integrated into society and contribute nothing to it.

He also blames foreigners – mainly Germany's Muslim population – for "dumbing down" society. He says that the rate at which Muslim women are reproducing means that Germans may soon become "strangers in their own country".

The book is already a bestseller and has prompted comparisons to Geert Wilders, the head of the Dutch far-right Freedom party.

The former Berlin finance senator said he wrote the book to outline his own fears that his grandchildren will grow up in a country where "their lives are measured out by the muezzin's calls to prayer".

At the book's Berlin launchtoday he rejected accusations that he was encouraging xenophobia and racism.

"I invite everyone to find discrepancies in my theories," he said. "It's an uncomfortable discussion, but to solve problems we have to first recognise them."

Outside the press conference a group of demonstrators protested against the book under the banner "Stop rightwing populism". Merkel made a rare intervention in the row, delivering a stern criticism of the book.

In an interview on the state broadcaster ARD, she called Sarrazin's statements "totally unacceptable" and "discriminatory – they show contempt towards entire groups in society". She added that Sarrazin was hindering integration efforts and "complicating the way in which these issues are discussed … the style and manner in which this is being discussed here is divisive for society."

Merkel hinted at her impatience with the Bundesbank's slowness in making a statement on the issue, saying that as the country's "calling card", the bank had to react.

There was pressure today on the Bundesbank to dismiss Sarrazin. Its president, Axel Weber, was due to make a statement following his return from the meeting of the world's central bank chiefs at Jackson Hole in Wyoming.

The leadership of the SPD was preparing to review Sarrazin's membershiptoday after the party leader, Sigmar Gabriel, said: "I don't know where he belongs in our party any more."

But Sarrazin said he would refuse to hand over his party membership book, which he insisted he would "take with me to the grave". He added: "I am the member of a people's party and will remain a member of this party, because I believe that this is precisely where these themes belong."

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews told the author that he would be better suited to the far-right National Democratic party following Sarrazin's statement that "all Jews shared the same gene", like Basques.

Among those who defended Sarrazin was Peter Gauweiler, of the Christian Social Union. He said it was good for Germany to be having the debate, adding that Sarrazin's critics were in danger of "appearing to want to stifle the ability of someone who thinks differently from them from speaking the truth". The Turkish-German writer and sociologist Necla Kelek, who was at Sarrazin's side when he presented his book to the public, said the banker was doing Germany a service and that he shared his concerns about the country's future. "(He) is calling on us Muslims to reflect on the role we play in Germany," Kelek said. "To accuse him of racism is absurd, because Islam is not a race, but a culture and a religion.

From the book

"Muslim immigration is connected more strongly than any other with welfare state dependency and criminality."

"With no other religion is there such a fluid connection between violence, dictatorship and terrorism as there is with Islam."

"Boys are taught an exaggerated idea of the readiness to be violent … for the sake of 'honour'. Young men take this role all the more seriously the less successful they are in the school system – where their performance is still much worse than that of Muslim girls."

"In Berlin 20% of all acts of violence are carried out by only 1,000 Turkish and Arabic youths, a population group that makes up just 0.3% of the entire Berlin population."

"A measure of a willingness to integrate is the attitude towards marriage, which steers the speed at which a society comes together … In this regard things are looking bad, because only 3% of young men and 8% of young women with a Turkish migrant background marry Germans partner. Among Russians of German descent the figure, by contrast, is 67%."

"The proportion of congenital disabilities is way above average among Turkish and Kurdish migrants. However, the topic is hushed up." It doesn't take much to think that hereditary factors might be responsible for the failure of some of the Turkish population in the German school system."