central bank board member Thilo Sarrazin, but the public are strongly behind him. (By the way, Sarrazin sounds like a Jewish name.)
German banker hits nerve with anti-immigration book
BERLIN (AFP)—Politicians have rushed to condemn a board member of the German central bank for a new book tackling immigration, but his views have found considerable support among the population at large.
Thilo Sarrazin’s book “is not convincing, but it has convinced many people,” said the influential Spiegel magazine, which this week has the Bundesbank executive on its cover, calling him a “people’s hero.”
His publisher is rushing to print more copies of “Germany Does Itself In” to meet demand. Online retailer Amazon.de has a massive 207 reader reviews on its website, with the average score 4.4 stars out of a possible five.
The Social Democrats (SPD), the centre-left political party Sarrazin belongs to, has been inundated with thousands of letters, emails and phone calls attacking the central bank board’s desire to expel him.
“Listen to the voice of the people for once,” Spiegel quoted one of the almost 4,000 emails as saying.
In the book, Sarrazin says Europe’s top economy is being undermined, overwhelmed and made “more stupid” by poorly educated, fast-breeding, badly integrated and unproductive Muslim immigrants and their offspring.
“If I want to hear the muezzin’s call to prayer, then I’ll go to the Orient,” he says, saying that allowing in millions of “guest workers” in the 1960s and 1970s was a “gigantic error.”
He also says that Turkish and Kurdish “clans” have a “long tradition of inbreeding,” leading to higher rates of birth defects, and ponders whether this might be one reason for immigrants’ poor school performance, Spiegel said.
This and his comment to a newspaper that “all Jews share a certain gene”, critics say, is akin to the kind of pseudo-science used by the Nazis. [LA replies: You mean, to say that a genetically related group shares a genetic characteristic is pseudo science?]
Chancellor Angela Merkel called the remarks “completely unacceptable.” The Bundesbank’s board has asked President Christian Wulff to fire him, as it cannot do so itself.
Sarrazin has no intention of going quietly, however, and has threatened to appeal in the courts if Wulff dismisses him in a “show trial.”
But at the same time, Sarrazin’s book has thrown the spotlight on the fact that Germany’s record is poor on integrating its 15.6 million people with what the government calls “a migration background.”
According to official figures, nearly one in five young people without German nationality, which many second and third generation immigrants do not have, leave school with no qualifications.
Other figures show that people in Germany of Turkish origin, who number around three million and make up the largest minority, are significantly more likely to be living below the poverty line.
The debate has taken on such proportions that Merkel, 56, gave an interview to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, and on Sunday she admitted in the Bild am Sonntag weekly that Germany has made mistakes and has a lot of work to do.
In the past, Germany “dreamed a so-called multi-cultural dream and didn’t do enough to remind immigrants of their responsibilities,” she told the paper.
“Unfortunately, it is true that children from immigrant families still today on average get worse grades at school … Our policies have made many things better but we still can’t be satisfied.”
But a Pandora’s Box has been opened. Backing for Sarrazin, 65, is so strong that a survey published on Sunday indicated that if he set up his own new political party, almost one in five (18 percent) would vote for him.
Sarrazin has no intention of doing any such thing, but the survey raised fears that a charismatic right-wing populist in Germany, like anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, could win considerable political support.
According to a study from Bielefeld University, one in two Germans thinks there are too many foreigners in the country.
Anita K. writes from Toronto:
Paul K. writes:
From the article: “This and his comment to a newspaper that “all Jews share a certain gene,” critics say, is akin to the kind of pseudo-science used by the Nazis.”
I expect to see an increasing chorus of accusations that Thilo Sarrazin is anti-Semitic. After all, anyone who opposes a Muslim takeover of their country must hate Jews as well. On the principle that “all bigotry is indivisible,” as discussed here, this is a given.
A few years ago I was walking along a New York City street with a group of coworkers. At the time, there was an ADL advertising campaign with the tagline “Anti-Semitic is anti me,” printed below pictures a a black child, an Asian, a Catholic priest.
After we passed one of the posters at a bus kiosk, a Jewish coworker remarked, “That’s a fantastic campaign,” and asked me what I thought of it. He became visibly upset when I told him it made no sense to me. I explained that some people dislike Hispanics or blacks, but not Jews. Furthermore, there are black people who presumably have no animus against other blacks, but are virulently anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, to my Jewish coworker, to be anti-anyone meant you were anti-Semitic, and to challenge that assumption no doubt put me in the same category.
Dale F. writes: