In conversation: Dr Karen Horn (left) and Necla Kelek
Daniel Johnson: Thilo Sarrazin, who was then a member of the board of Deutsche Bundesbank, recently published a book entitled Germany Abolishes Itself. This book has added fire to the already heated debate in Germany about the failed integration of immigrants with a Muslim background. What, if anything, do you think Britain could learn from the way Germany discusses integration?
Necla Kelek: The German debate didn't begin with Sarrazin's book. Until recently, however, the debate here was dominated by the point of view of the immigrants themselves as well as various leftist opinion-leaders in this country, claiming that Germany must do more to help the immigrants. We saw a lot of this in the schools, where the widely-held view was that all education policy must aim at supporting and confirming the cultural background of immigrant families. Approximately five years ago, however, a second position began to be voiced by another group of people, to which I belong. We argue that integration is not about Germany having to go through great pains to make immigrants feel at ease here with their traditions. Integration should instead take place on the grounds of the opportunities granted by a treasure that Germans share with the immigrants: our constitution, our democracy, the gift of freedom. By insisting on this, we have turned the debate round. It was high time. We missed so many chances. We have already lost at least three generations since 1961, the moment when Germany began to invite Turkish Gastarbeiter [guest workers]. So many of these people have since been unable to find their place in a free, democratic society. But this is what we should have helped them with, instead of pumping millions into social welfare for immigrants. Money doesn't help to broaden culture and develop identity. Instead, we must challenge immigrants with concrete demands, obliging them to endorse and support the values of our society. Sarrazin argues exactly along these lines, and I think it is very helpful to have yet another source making this point in the public debate.
Karen Horn: One cannot overstate the importance of having this relatively new, more self-confident voice in the debate. It stands for a point of view that is not chauvinistic or exclusive in any way, but is acutely aware of the values of Western civilisation that we should wish to protect. Necla Kelek has enormously contributed to this new focus. She has fostered the debate on exactly what these values consist of, how we can safeguard them, and where there may be problems. Answering your question, Daniel, I am not sure Germany should pretend it has anything to teach. But should there be something worthy of an "example" in this field, it would be, I think, this new focus on the values of a free, democratic society.
DJ: For historical reasons, Germans value liberty particularly highly. We are holding this discussion in what was until 20 years ago part of East Berlin. Nazi and communist totalitarianism held people in this country hostage for too long. Necla, do you fear that Muslim citizens, particularly women, are not fully able to enjoy the liberties supposedly guaranteed by the free and democratic German constitution?
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