Angela Merkel’s attack on “Multikulti” was misjudged? Many believe it wasn’t even tried


Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulating Germany's midfielder Mesut Ozil in the dressing rooms after the Euro 2012 qualifying football match between Germany and Turkey Photo: AFP

Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulating Germany's midfielder Mesut Ozil in the dressing rooms after the Euro 2012 qualifying football match between Germany and Turkey Photo: AFP

The headlines like “Angela Merkel declares the death of German multiculturalism” are all over the internet. One for instance from Telegraph: “Angela Merkel’s attack on “Multikulti” was misjudged: Many believe it wasn’t even tried.”

The failure of a certain ‘multi-kulti’ approach in Germany does not mean the West is wrong to insist on minority inclusion in Southeast Europe, argues Florian Bieber in this article from Balkan Insight. He refers to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel when on 16 October she declared at a congress of the Young Christian Democrats, that “Multiculturalism is dead”. Actually not to be mislead by certain interpretation here is a literally translated quote:

We are a country that invited guest workers to come to Germany in the 1960s. Now they live among us. For a while we kidded ourselves. We said: They won’t stay, they’ll be gone at some point. But that is not the reality. And most certainly the approach failed to say: We’ll do a multi-kulti thing here; we’ll just live next to and detached from each other and declare how happy we are with each other – this approach has failed, utterly failed. Angela Merkel

Germans are not known for their humor, but they do do irony and sarcasm, says Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, the Senior Director for Policy Programs at the German Marshall Fund. “Both traits rarely convey in translation. But the video of the speech reveals that Merkel displayed utter sarcasm when she disparaged the “multi-kulti thing” as a hippie vision of peace, love, and brotherhood, as some sort of German adaptation of a multi-ethnic Haight Ashbury,” says expert.

A FEW months ago Germans were basking in the positive glow cast by their multicultural football team, writes The Economist. They did not quite win the World Cup but did pretty well “with a part-Ghanaian defender, a midfielder with Turkish roots and a striker from Poland”. What a great advertisement for a Germany “open to the world”, the Economist goes on. “Now suddenly the talk is of an immigrant-bashing, Islam-hating Germany nostalgic for the firm leadership of the 1940s. Why? And which is the real Germany?”

Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that Germany’s multiculturalism “utterly failed” but many Germans whose parents came from Turkey complain that they have never really been made welcome, writes Telegraph.

The person responsible for spoiling the mood in Germany is Thilo Sarrazin, member of the Bundesbank’s board, who in August published a controversial book, Deutschland schafft sich ab (“Germany does away with itself”). Bundesbank reached this conclusion— surprising in light of Germany’s splendid economic performance—from his reading of the demographic future: with the country’s population shrinking overall, immigrants and the underclass are having too many children, well-educated native Germans too few. Biologically, culturally and professionally Germany is dumbing down, Mr Sarrazin argued (and was then forced out of his job).

The global economic crisis has propelled us into a (hopefully) brief period of de-globalization, says  Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff:

Nationalism is on the rise, as are anti-free-trade and anti-immigrant sentiments. An anti-establishment mood is part of that package. Gert Wilders in the Netherlands, Thilo Sarrazin in Germany, Jimmie Akesson in Sweden, and large parts of the Tea Party movement in the United States are products of that wave.  It is dauntingly difficult to run a country in this environment. Especially now, we should be careful not to paint those who govern us into a corner where they don’t belong.

Angela Merkel is a conservative. Her concept sees immigrants who integrate into a culturally dominant mainstream society. Her conservative party takes an aggressive, state-centered, and hands-on stance toward integration best summed up in six words: assimilate – take it or leave it! “It is debatable whether this concept is appropriate for a multi-religious, multi-ethnic Europe, in which the free movement of people is the norm. But the end of cultural pluralism it is not; racism it is not. And that makes all the difference. In fact, in the very same speech, Merkel emphasized that “Islam is now a part of Germany.” She is preparing her party and her country for more, not less, immigration, and she is explicitly rejecting the views of the populists and the anti-Islamic hatemongers,” – says Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff.

So, Florian Bieber asks: (I previously posted an interesting article by this scholar about hilarious perceptions on Eastern European history and politics according to students, that you can read here) are Germany and the “West” hypocritical in demanding multiculturalism and minority protection in Southeastern Europe?

The answer is yes and no. Policies towards minorities, be they historical groups or migrants, has often not been exemplary in the West. On the other hand, the challenge of integrating migrants in many Western European societies is very different from the inclusion of existing minorities. The fact that many West European countries are struggling to integrate and accommodate migrants suggests there is no easy way.
But ignoring groups that are different, and not offering them a path into mainstream society, citizenship and equality in public life, does not work either.  A certain “multikulti” approach may have reached a dead end, but Europe still needs more rather than less genuine multiculturalism.

2 thoughts on “Angela Merkel’s attack on “Multikulti” was misjudged? Many believe it wasn’t even tried

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