A short article from Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
“The multicultural approach has failed. Totally failed!” German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s words attracted global attention. It was a surprising statement from a chancellor who only recently warned against a Dutch government being reliant on parliamentary support from Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party.
It would be a mistake, however, to think Ms Merkel has been won over by Mr Wilders’ arguments. The same speech that denounced the softly-softly integration approach, described Islam as “part of Germany”. But one thing is perfectly clear: the naïve idea that ‘we all live together and we’re all fine with it’ just doesn’t tally with the reality in Germany.
“We brought foreign workers to our country in the 1960s. They live here now, and we've been fooling ourselves. We thought they would go away again, but that didn’t happen. Of course the multicultural approach 'we live next to each other and we like it' has failed. Totally failed.”
The figures demonstrate that Germany is a multicultural society. Out of a population of about 82 million, 6.6 million people hold foreign passports. Germany’s largest non-Western minority is its 1.6 million-strong Turkish community. The German capital Berlin has the highest Turkish population of any city outside Turkey itself. The number of Muslims living in Germany is estimated to be something in excess of 3 million.
Ms Merkel’s pronouncement on the failure of multiculturalism is all to do with the fear of electoral upheaval. While the integration debate in Germany’s neighbours (the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, France) has been raging for some time, Germany has been noticeably silent on the issue. Criticism of one ethnic group within society is an extremely sensitive issue, given the country’s Nazi past.
But a few months ago the situation changed dramatically. A book claiming that German society is fundamentally threatened by Islam caused a furore. And René Stadtkewitz, a former party colleague of Ms Merkel, set up his own political party, making grateful use of Geert Wilders anti-Islam rhetoric.
Ms Merkel didn’t like this at all. As her party colleague Volker Buffier says:
“Look at what’s happened in Germany’s neighbours, in the Netherlands, in Sweden, in Denmark, in all these countries, right-wing protest parties have sprung up, making it really difficult to form a stable government. That’s exactly what we want to prevent.”
Ms Merkel wants her party to take the lead in the integration debate and to tackle the problems in immigrant neighbourhoods. The government is working on tougher measures requiring immigrants to do more to integrate. Turkish President Abdullah Gül was the first to support Ms Merkel’s tough new stance. He said Turkish people living in Germany should do their best to integrate and learn to speak perfect German.
I belive the book, Sarrazin's "Deutschland schafft sich ab", was the epiphany for Merkel, Geert Wilder's election was distant second.
Merkel's centre-right party has so narrowly defined itself as just a little bit to the right, just a little bit more conservative than the SPD. But Sarrazin came from the SPD and says integration has failed and Germany is eradicating itself.
Now suddenly the CDU/CSU has lost all political legitimacy as it is seen to be left of the SPD by virtue of not challenging the shackles of political correctness but instead being part and party to the censorship of any criticism of failing immigration policy and un-willingness to integrate.
Suddenly Merkel has to scramble to find new safe ground to the right of the SPD voters. That they are totally at sea can be seen from the gyrations: opportunistically honour free speech of a cartoonist but vilify an elected politician in Gert Wilders that is on trial for having spoken; say that Islam is part of Germany but then backtrack and say that it is not the Leitkulture for Germany, let Erdogan, a leader from a foreign power, to say and left unchallenged that requiring the Turkish immigrants and second generations in Germany to assimilates is a crime against humanity, and then asking him to qualify years later that this group should speak German fluently after all.
It will be difficult if not impossible for her and Christian Wulff to recover their personal credibility with the electorate.