News / Europe

German Chancellor Calls Multiculturalism Experiment a Failure

Thilo Sarazzin's book "Germany Does Itself In" is a bestseller that accuses immigrants of damaging Germany by not integrating into society. Sarrazin's polemic chastising of Muslims in particular led the executive board of the center-left Social Democratic
Thilo Sarazzin's book "Germany Does Itself In" is a bestseller that accuses immigrants of damaging Germany by not integrating into society. Sarrazin's polemic chastising of Muslims in particular led the executive board of the center-left Social Democratic

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Diaa Bekheet

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a bold remark recently saying multiculturalism has failed in Germany. Her verdict marks a shift in her previously liberal line on immigration which had always put her at odds with the more conservative wing of the party. They also align her with Thilo Sarrazin, a former Bundesbank member whose book on how the failure of many of Germany's  immigrants to integrate became a bestseller.  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a stark declaration about immigration in Germany.

"The multicultural approach, that we live here side by side and be happy about each other, this approach has failed, utterly failed," the German Chancellor said.

Her comments reflect those of former German bank official, opposition politician and  author Thilo Sarrazin.

"The economic and cultural problems of integration for immigrants from  Islamic countries have an overall negative impact on the economic and social levels of the European countries that take them in," Sarrazi said.

Sarazzin is known for courting controversy and his latest book called Germany Does Itself In claims Muslim immigrants do not contribute to society. It clearly struck a chord with Germans.

"It's a big, big best seller, since the first day it was released in Germany people came into the store and just like grabbed the book," said Bianca Kreumer

"I think the excerpts were provocative, I don't really believe him, but I want to see it in context," Dimitri Belinski said.

Berlin's Kreutzberg neighborhood is home to the bulk of the city's immigrants. Here you'll find women in headscarves, ethnic restaurants and a street market catering to the more than two million people of Turkish origin who live in Germany.

Germany has long relied on immigrants to bolster its workforce. Laborers from countries like Turkey were originally known as guest workers, now that they've been here more than a generation, how they integrate with German society has sparked a debate over the nature of national identity.

Ismail Karayuz has lived here in Berlin since he was a child. He owns a local business, speaks German, pays taxes and says he does his best to contribute to society. Still, he says his heritage is Turkish so he does not feel German.

"Society has not really accepted me as a German,  but I am part of the society here, I live here," he said.

German officials say a small minority of immigrants do not make an effort to fit in and the government should do something about it. Parliament member Michael Fuchs believes immigrants who fail to learn the language or do not try should lost state benefits.

"The social welfare system has possibilities to cut on the social welfare if for instance the parents are not sending their children into both kindergarten or school," Fuchs said.

Germany's banking center, Frankfurt has more immigrants than any other city, and officials are working hard to give them opportunities to fit in. This adult school offers courses in language and culture free to immigrants who can not afford pay. Language director Bernt Eckhardt says it's mandated by law.

"The government requires that if you stay here, you should learn German enough to move and integrate in the society," Eckhardt said.

Pakistani immigrant Tasneem Gul came here six months ago. Although she speaks her native Urdu at home, she is committed to learning German as quickly as possible.

"Very important all foreigners for language, when I don't know about the language, I will not survive in this land," she said.

Chancellor Merkel discussed immigration when she met recently with her Turkish counterpart. Despite her harsh words that multiculturalism is failing, she was careful to say she doesn't oppose immigration altogether, she just wants better integration into German society.  One sign that it is moving in the that direction is Germany's national football team. Nearly half of the players have immigrant roots and its biggest star is an ethnic Turk, born in Germany.

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