Debate On Role Of Islam Divides German Government : The Two-Way : NPR

Merkel has rebuked his comments (Merkel contradicts interior minister, saying ‘Islam belongs to Germany’):

Germany’s new minister of interior, Horst Seehofer, has stirred up debate about the role of Islam in Germany.

In an interview with the German newspaper BILD Seehofer said: “Islam is not a part of Germany. Germany has been influenced by Christianity. This includes free Sundays, church holidays and rituals such as Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. However, the Muslims living in Germany obviously do belong to Germany.”

This statement conflicted with the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel said, even though Germany has been influenced mainly by Christianity and Judaism, there are more than four million Muslims in the country, they “belong to Germany and so does their religion.”

Konstantin von Notz, member of the opposition Green party, protests, “The statement of Interior Minister Seehoher is complete nonsense. Germany cannot afford such behavior in the important questions of integration.”

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed to everyone by our constitution,” said Andreas Nick, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. “Individuals should be judged by their behavior which of course needs to comply with the laws of the land — no more, no less.”

Apart from members of Seehofer’s Christian Social Union, only the far-right Alternative for Germany, or the AfD, agreed with his statement. The AfD’s spokesman Jörg Meuthen told NPR that he himself had made similar statements many times before. He maintained that Seehofer was simply not credible on the subject, and the interior minister’s remarks should be viewed as “a populist attempt” by the CSU to take votes from the AfD “ahead of the Bavarian elections in October this year.”

“Islam is definitely part of Germany: millions of Muslims live in Germany and have become citizens of this country,” Mouhanad Khorchide, head of the Center for Islamic Theology at the University of Muenster, told NPR. “We cannot differentiate between Islam and Muslims. According to the German constitution there is no religion without the individual.”

Khorchide expressed concern about the consequences of Seehofer’s interview. “Such statements polarize the German society,” he said. “Instead of talking of a ‘we,’ which would include Muslims, the conversation now distinguishes between Germans and Muslims. For many Muslims this creates a feeling of being unwanted and unwelcomed. Many of them are second or third generation residents, and Germany is their home.”

An expert on Islamic law, Mathias Rohe, believes the whole debate to be meaningless. “Of course Germany has been influenced by Christianity – but no one ever doubted that,” he said. “No Muslim has ever questioned the Christian history of Germany or demanded a change in that understanding.”

It would make more sense, he said, for people to “concentrate on the considerable number of concrete issues” that will need to be addressed in Germany in the coming years.

via Debate On Role Of Islam Divides German Government : The Two-Way : NPR


Islam doesn’t belong to Germany, new interior minister says

The remarks are slightly more nuanced than the header but still unfortunate. The same remark, “live with us, not next to us or against us” applies to all groups:

New Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Islam did not belong to Germany, in an interview published on Friday, setting him on a collision course with Chancellor Angela Merkel who has stressed the need to integrate Muslims.

Seehofer also set out a range of hardline policies on immigration, as the new coalition prepares to see off the rising challenge of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which entered the national parliament in last year’s elections.

“Islam does not belong to Germany,” Seehofer told mass-selling Bild newspaper, contradicting former German president Christian Wulff who fuelled a debate over immigration in 2010 by saying Islam was part of Germany.

In 2015 Merkel echoed Wulff’s words at a time when anti-immigration campaign group PEGIDA – or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West – was holding marches.

The German government estimates between 4.4 and 4.7 million Muslims are living in Germany. Many of them have a Turkish background and many of the more than a million migrants who have arrived in the country from the Middle East and elsewhere after Merkel adopted an open-door policy in mid-2015 are also Muslims.

Seehofer – a member of Merkel’s CSU Bavarian allies who are further to the right than her own Christian Democrats (CDU) – said he would implement a “master plan for quicker deportations”.

He also promised to do more to tackle the reasons people flee and classify more states as ‘safe’ countries of origin, which would make it easier to deport failed asylum seekers.

“Of course the Muslims living here do belong to Germany,” Seehofer said before going on to say Germany should not give up its own traditions or customs, which had Christianity at their heart.

“My message is: Muslims need to live with us, not next to us or against us,” said Seehofer, who was sworn in as interior minister on Wednesday.

Seehofer is keen to show his party is tackling immigration ahead of Bavaria’s October regional election, when the AfD is expected to enter that state assembly.

In a coalition agreement, Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative bloc and the Social Democrats (SPD) agreed they would manage and limit migration to Germany and Europe to avoid a re-run of the 2015 refugee crisis.

They also said they did not expect migration (excluding labour migration) to rise above the range of 180,000 to 220,000 per year.

via Islam doesn’t belong to Germany, new interior minister says

‘Never Again’: Fighting Hate in a Changing Germany With Tours of Nazi Camps – The New York Times

Having visited Dachau, I can attest to the power of such visits:

It was not the execution wall or the electric fence or even the description of the smell of human flesh burning day and night that made the teenagers stop cold.

It was the bunk beds.

In their wooden ordinariness, they spoke to the 10th graders visiting the former Nazi concentration camp of Sachsenhausen as no history book had. “This is how they lived,” whispered Damian, 15, his eyes taking in the tightly packed rows of ladderless three-level bunks.

When Jakob Hetzelein, a history teacher in a working-class district of northeastern Berlin, decided to take his students to Sachsenhausen, a short suburban train ride from the German capital, he was not sure how it would go down.

His lessons on Nazi Germany had met muted enthusiasm. In a mock election in class, several students had supported the nativist Alternative for Germany party. One boy was recently caught scribbling a swastika on a friend’s jacket. Another does Hitler impressions when he thinks Mr. Hetzelein is not looking. Left index finger under his nose, right arm extended.

And then there are Mahmoud and Ferdous, recent refugees from Egypt and Afghanistan, where anti-Israel sentiment routinely blends into anti-Semitism and sometimes Holocaust denial.

Mr. Hetzelein, 31, who used to teach in a vocational school where nine in 10 students had Turkish or Arabic backgrounds, knows about casual anti-Semitism. “Jew” is a popular insult on some soccer fields in Berlin.

“It has become harder to teach history,” he said.

Teaching history is a pillar of national identity in postwar Germany. That is why Sawsan Chebli, a Berlin state legislator with Palestinian heritage, recently came up with an idea that is radical even by the standards of a country that has dissected the horrors of its past like no other: make visits to Nazi concentration camps mandatory — for everyone.

“This is about who we are as a country,” she said in a recent conversation in Berlin. “We need to make our history relevant for everyone: Germans who no longer feel a connection to the past and immigrants who feel excluded from the present.”

Ms. Chebli’s proposal comes at a time when Germany is grappling with the creeping rise of two kinds of anti-Semitism and as the Jewish community, now numbering about 200,000, is once again nervous.

Neo-Nazis have been emboldened by the arrival of Alternative for Germany, the first far-right party to break into Parliament since World War II. And there are concerns that the recent absorption of more than a million immigrants, many from the Middle East and many Muslim, has inadvertently created incubators of a different kind of anti-Semitism — one hiding behind the injustices of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but often reverting to hateful old stereotypes, too.

It was the sight of Arab immigrants, including Palestinian-Germans like herself, burning an Israeli flag underneath the Brandenburg Gate in December while chanting “Death to Israel” that moved Ms. Chebli to speak up.

Since then, other disturbing stories have emerged in the German news media: an Afghan boy greeting his teacher with “Heil Hitler” and proclaiming that he, too, was Aryan. A group of Syrian refugees calling the Holocaust “a Jewish conspiracy,” explaining that they had learned that in school back home.

The reaction in Berlin, where there are strict legal prohibitions of Holocaust denial and Nazi propaganda, has been swift. The government announced that it was appointing its first-ever anti-Semitism coordinator. Some in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party have urged the immediate deportation of anti-Semitic Muslims.

Günter Morsch, the director of the Sachsenhausen memorial, says he does not think that is helpful. “We cannot allow this debate to create another form of racism,” he said. “What about the Germans who are anti-Semitic?”

Nine in 10 anti-Semitic hate crimes reported in Berlin are committed by German citizens. And for all the seeming contradictions, there is a common denominator between Muslims who espouse anti-Semitic views and those on the far-right (who also hate Muslims), Mr. Morsch said.

“Anti-Semitism correlates more closely with educational background than with ethnic background,” he said, citing empirical studies.

Ms. Chebli says that visiting a concentration camp is no panacea, but that it can help. She visited one as a young woman. The experience changed her, she said.

“It is a powerful way of keeping memory alive and giving meaning to our mantra of ‘never again,’ ” Ms. Chebli said. “But we need to get back to the essence of what this is about: It’s about standing up for human rights and the rights of minorities — all minorities.”

Muslims, too

During their visit to Sachsenhausen, the teenagers huddled around their guide in the vast triangular courtyard of the camp, its perimeter still dotted with watchtowers.

Sachsenhausen was no death camp, although tens of thousands of inmates are believed to have died here; those were built by the Nazis outside Germany. But it was the nerve center of two dozen major concentration camps run by the Nazis.

From an inconspicuous office building in one corner of the camp, civil servants decided what kind of medical experiments would be conducted, how many executions would take place and how much cyclone B gas would be delivered to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. “Desk perpetrators,” the guide, Mariana Aegerter, calls them.

“Does anyone here know who was imprisoned here?” she asked the class.

Nelson, a boy with shoulder-length hair, tentatively raised his hand. “Jews?”

There were Jewish prisoners in Sachsenhausen. But unlike in the death camps, they were a minority. Of more than 200,000 inmates over the years, some 40,000 were Jewish. Many died here.

The Nazi regime targeted many, Ms. Aegerter explained, like communists, clerics, homosexuals, Roma and the disabled. But also those considered “antisocial”: The homeless, the jobless, those on social welfare, and boys with long hair — Ms. Aegerter’s eyes lingered on Nelson — or with too many girlfriends, or with a weakness for American music, like Jazz or swing.

By the time Sachsenhausen was liberated, she said, nine in 10 prisoners were foreigners, coming from 45 countries. There were Muslims, too.

“Muslims, too?” Ferdous said later. “I did not know that.”

Building bridges

Ms. Aegerter, a young historian, says her central aim during tours of the camp is to bring to life what is an empty space, to make students visualize life there, and ultimately to create a bridge between the visitor and the prisoner, between the present and the past.

“Our most powerful tool,” she said, “is identification.”

Recently, a young Syrian had asked a fellow guide, “Why do you turn your torture chambers into a museum?”

To make sure we will never have torture chambers again, he had replied.

The boy had thought this over for a while. “We have torture chambers in Syria,” he eventually said. “Maybe, when the war is over, we should turn them into a museum, too.”

It is not always easy. Once, a Palestinian schoolgirl asked Ms. Aegerter, “Don’t you think that what the Jews are doing with the Palestinians today is the same as what the Nazis did with the Jews?”

No, she had explained, but that did not mean one had to approve of everything the state of Israel was doing. The girl seemed unconvinced.

Ms. Chebli comes across this all the time, she said. “I have Palestinians tell me: I had to leave my country because of the Holocaust and you want me to worry about anti-Semitism?”

She recounted the lukewarm reaction of one young man to her concerns about growing anti-Semitism. Born and raised in Germany, he does not see himself as German because, he says, Germans do not see him as German.

“Of course, anti-Semitism is important,” he had told her, “but what about the racism I experience every day?”

To win over young Muslims for the fight against anti-Semitism, Ms. Chebli said, Germany has to fight Islamophobia, too.

“It’s much easier for me to persuade a young Muslim of the relevance of the Holocaust if I acknowledge their own experience of discrimination and create that link,” Ms. Chebli said.

Sometimes, creating a link with young Germans is just as tricky, Ms. Aegerter points out.

Now 34, she grew up in the eastern state of Brandenburg in the 1990s. Swastikas were a common sight in her town: Scrawled on the inside of toilet cubicles. Graffitied onto walls. A boy in her class had tattooed one on his shin. It was only after she and some friends had complained that the boy had been asked to wear long trousers during sports lessons.

These days, Ms. Aegerter has teachers on the phone who share their concerns about far-right tendencies among their students.

One teacher told her before a class visit that he had planned the trip specifically because he worried about three boys drifting into neo-Nazi territory. But on the day, all three called in sick.

“Sadly, that is no exception,” Ms. Aegerter said.

In some cases, she said, it is the parents telling teachers they do not want their children to visit a concentration camp.

When students do come, it can be transformative, said Mr. Morsch, who has been director of the memorial for 25 years.

“It would be naïve to expect a two-hour tour to turn neo-Nazis into anti-fascists,” Mr. Morsch said. “But give us a little time, and we can achieve a lot.”

He recalled a recent group of students from a vocational school that had a persistent problem with neo-Nazi graffiti. They spent several weeks in Sachsenhausen renovating one part of the memorial — but also working in small groups, dissecting drawings and letters of prisoners and creating their own exhibition.

“After they spend some time with us, the problem went away,” Mr. Morsch said.

Mr. Morsch still believes that camp visits should remain voluntary. He fears an obligation to come would take away from the learning experience.

Mr. Hetzelein disagrees. Whether schools or the law make the call, students rarely get a say. He grew up in Bavaria, the only German state where visiting a Nazi memorial is already required.

As a high school student, he went to Dachau, near Munich. Years later, he saw Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in what is Poland today.

The cast-iron gates, the barbed wire and the sheer scale of it still haunt him. “It’s not enough to read books about it,” he said, “you need to feel it.”

A week after visiting Sachsenhausen, Mr. Hetzelein asked his students whether they thought their children should one day be made to visit a camp.

Of 22 students, 21 agreed. Among them: Ferdous, Damian and Nelson.

via ‘Never Again’: Fighting Hate in a Changing Germany With Tours of Nazi Camps – The New York Times

The moment pro-migrant politicians feared: Afghan boy kills ex-girlfriend, a German

Good in-depth article. Same pattern of reactions occurs elsewhere, and how it influences the overall political debates over immigration:

It happened between neatly stacked rows of shampoo and organic baby food: A teenage boy walked up to his ex-girlfriend in the local drugstore, pulled out a kitchen knife with an eight-inch blade and stabbed her in the heart.

The death in Kandel, in southwestern Germany, on Dec. 27 has traumatized this sleepy town of barely 10,000 inhabitants, not just because both the suspect and the victim were just 15 years old and went to the local school, but also because the boy is an Afghan migrant and the girl was German.

From the moment Germany opened its doors to more than one million migrants two years ago, prominent episodes like the Berlin Christmas market attack and the New Year’s molestation and rapes in Cologne have stoked German insecurities.

But the case of the two teenagers, Abdul D. and Mia V., has struck a special nerve because the killing happened in such a quiet and provincial setting and the two people involved were so young. It became national news, was debated over dinner tables, on talk shows and on social media sites, and reinforced fears that Germany is becoming ever less safe.

Yet perceptions are one thing, and statistics are another. Reported crimes have edged up over the past two years, but overall, violent crimes have been trending downward for a decade in Germany, which remains one of the safest countries in Europe.

Nevertheless, each crime involving a migrant or asylum-seeker has become a fresh occasion for national hand-wringing.

Something has shifted in Germany. Not so long ago, the logistical challenge and cost of integrating new migrants still dominated the public debate. These days, the growing unease with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migration policy has reached a new and febrile stage.

“I am scared,” said Jana Weigel, a 24-year-old dental assistant, as she lit a candle outside the DM drugstore where the killing took place.

Calls have multiplied for mandatory medical exams to determine the age of migrants claiming to be minors and for swifter deportations of those who — like the suspect — have been denied asylum.

A preliminary coalition agreement between Merkel’s conservatives and the more liberal Social Democrats announced Friday includes a cap of 220,000 refugees per year and strictly limits the number of family members allowed to join a refugee in Germany.

Even in proudly tolerant and left-voting Kandel, the mood on the street has hardened. Many here took the killing personally. Before Mia broke up with Abdul, he had been welcomed into her family, Weigel pointed out, much like the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been welcomed to Germany.

“It makes you think,” she said, “how many others will betray our hospitality.”

Weigel’s sense of insecurity was reinforced by a widely publicized study showing that the number of reported crimes in the state of Lower Saxony had risen by more than 10 percent over the past two years and that the increase could be attributed overwhelmingly to cases involving refugees.

Half of that increase is due to the fact that crimes involving migrants are twice as likely to be reported, the authors of the study said. Many of the people accused of crimes are young men under 30, a demographic that is most likely to commit crimes, even among Germans.

Less publicized was the other major finding of the report: Overall, violent crime, including murder and rape, remains well below its 2007 peak. The number of young offenders has decreased by half since then.

“The paradox is that Germany is still a very safe country, much safer than even a few years ago,” said Christian Pfeiffer, a criminologist and a co-author of the report, which was commissioned by the government and released last week. “But the perception is the opposite: People feel less safe. And when something like this murder happens, it confirms that feeling.”

Ask the Germans paying their respects at the ad hoc memorial for the girl who was killed — a sea of candles and messages and photos of her with friends — and they will reel off a list of crimes committed by migrants: A German woman who was raped by a Sudanese migrant in the nearby town of Speyer a few days earlier. Another woman who was raped and strangled by an Afghan in Freiburg just over a year ago.

Weigel, who has a 2-year-old daughter, no longer leaves the house after dark. Last month, a terrorist attack was narrowly foiled at an ice rink in nearby Karlsruhe, a 30-minute drive away.

“It feels like we’ve lost control,” Weigel said. “The state has lost control.”

Kandel is an orderly town of tastefully restored medieval houses and shops that close for lunch. It is also home to 125 refugees, most of them from Syria or Afghanistan.

Until Mia was killed, “there was never a problem,” said Günther Tielebörger, Kandel’s mayor. He represents the Social Democrats, long the strongest party in the town. The far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, received less than 10 percent of the vote in the last election.

Kandel has a long tradition of tolerance. Three centuries ago, it welcomed Huguenot refugees from France. Where other villages in the region built a wall inside their churches to keep Catholics and Protestants apart, Kandel ripped down its wall and shared the church. One of the best restaurants in town serving regional specialties like “pig’s stomach” is run by a Turk.

But this tolerance is now being tested.

Maja Mathias, 53, works in a local French bakery and has Turkish neighbors and a Croatian brother-in-law. “I have no problem with foreigners,” she said, standing behind a counter featuring freshly baked baguettes and pretzels. “But there is always the fear: What else is coming?”

Beyond fear, the killing has stirred other resentments.

“German retirees who have worked hard for 45 years get less than the refugees,” said Knoll Pede, 64, a town maintenance worker. He is no fan of President Donald Trump, he said, “but I wouldn’t mind our politicians to do a bit of ‘Germany First.’”

Such talk worries Tielebörger, the mayor. The benefits migrants receive are far less generous than Germans may believe, he said, and many of the migrants are barred from work until their asylum applications have been processed. But the optics matter.

“Germans feel neglected,” Tielebörger said.

“We need to wake up,” he said. Otherwise, he added, the left will lose votes to the right.

One of Tielebörger’s former colleagues in local government is Heiko Wildberg, a former member of the liberal pro-immigration Greens party. Wildberg is now a lawmaker for the nationalist AfD in Berlin. For him, Mia’s killing was a “turning point.”

“This is not Berlin or Cologne; we are in small-town Germany,” he said. “This murder shows that the reality of the migrant crisis has arrived in the German province.”

The AfD was quick off the mark, organizing a silent march through Kandel two days after the killing. The more extremist National Party of Germany followed suit.

Meanwhile, the local benefits office in Kandel had to barricade its doors because its employees had received so many threats. “Accomplices,” anonymous messages called them.

Some here accuse the authorities of not having done enough to protect Mia. Abdul had stalked her online and in person and beaten up one of her classmates in a fit of jealousy.

On Dec. 15, her parents had reported him to the police. Twelve days later, as she was shopping with friends, he stabbed her repeatedly with a knife he had bought in a supermarket next door. She later died of her wounds.

After her father told the German tabloid Bild that her ex-boyfriend “was definitely not 15,” demands for medical exams to verify the claims of refugees who say they are minors have been revived.

The ethics commission of the body representing Germany’s doctors has said that such tests — which include X-rays of hand, collar and jaw bones as well as genital exams — violate “bodily integrity” and can be inaccurate by as much as two years.

They have nonetheless become a rallying cry at the highest level of politics.

“In all cases, where no official and real document is presented, we need to determine the age in another way, if needed through medical examinations,” said the conservative interior minister, Thomas de Maizière.

When Abdul arrived in Germany in April 2016, he said he was 14, and apparently none of the officials registering him raised serious doubts about his age. As part of the court case against him, a series of medical exams will now seek to confirm his age.

Austria, Sweden and the German state of Saarland are among the places conducting such exams regularly.

There is an incentive for migrants to be listed as under 18. Government benefits, access to German lessons and job opportunities are better for minors. In Saarland, more than a third of the migrants who were tested appeared to be over 18.

Most of the unaccompanied-minor migrants are integrating well, said Anne Spiegel, the integration minister for the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which includes Kandel. “They are attending school, learning German and signing up for apprenticeships,” she said.

Still, officials like Tielebörger, the mayor, say that every transgression by a migrant gets disproportionate attention, leading to the opposite impression.

There was another shocking homicide in Kandel in recent weeks, he pointed out. A man killed his wife and two children. That one did not make the national news.

“If the boy had been German,” Tielebörger said, “we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Source: The moment pro-migrant politicians feared: Afghan boy kills ex-girlfriend, a German

Germany’s ‘New’ Anti-Semitism Is Not Just About Muslim Immigrants Versus Jews

Long interesting read:

Rabbi Mendel Gurewitz, who was born and raised in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has been running the synagogue in Offenbach, a city outside Frankfurt, for the past 20 years. It’s not the Big Apple, but he likes it here.

Three years ago, Gurewitz went to buy diapers for his baby at the city’s faded gray shopping center, where he was confronted by a group of teenage boys who shouted racial slurs and “viva Palestine” at him while the other shoppers did nothing.

A few months later, when the boys trundled into his synagogue hoping to get the charges against them for insult and physical injury dropped, they had some questions they wanted clarified about Jews in this country.

“It was like they thought there were dollar bills in our eyes,” Gurewitz told The Daily Beast. “And they thought that Jews don’t have to pay taxes in Germany.“

Today, the 43-year-old rabbi just wants to do his job as a man of God. The shopping center was not the first or last time he has encountered the kind of ugly stereotype that, having originated in Europe, now seems to be fueling new versions of anti-Jewish sentiment across the continent as well as in the U.S., from the George Soros caricatures that permeate the advertising space in Hungary’s no longer free media to the Turkish president’s various “us against the world” conspiracies.

There are growing concerns that anti-Semitism is on the rise, and in this atmosphere of fear Gurewitz has members from his congregation coming up to him after services telling him that the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland party is trying to recruit them.

This is grim, ironic opportunism. Just a year ago one of the AfD’s politicians in this same region declared that the Central Council of Jews in Germany secretly controls the entire country. Now, says Gurewitz, “I know they tried to reach out to Russian members from our community by pretending that they are pro-Israel and for the Jews.“

THE HATE SLOGANS in Germany that greeted U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last month to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem put the spotlight on anti-Semitism in Muslim immigrant communities, which certainly exists. But they also showed that the real-life tensions between Jews and Muslims offer an opportunity to the far right to rationalize its Islamophobia and downplay its historical anti-Semitism.

Last month, some Muslim refugees in hoodies threw Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in Gothenburg, for example. Bad enough. But a certain “Swedish journalist“ has been tweeting about supposed subsequent but in fact nonexistent bomb attacks and offering “my deepest condolences to the Jewish people.” His comments were widely retweeted—he has 82,000 followers. But, in fact, the 22-year-old previously has denied the Holocaust and said, memorably, that “Hitler had some good points.“ And he is not even Swedish, as the U.K. charity Hope Not Hate found out this summer. He is an Englishman from North Yorkshire.

“Just a year ago one of the AfD’s politicians in this same region declared that the Central Council of Jews in Germany secretly controls the entire country.”

In Germany, the footage of protests in Berlin after the Jerusalem embassy announcement was just the kind of thing AfD recruiters on the German right are likely to exploit. Calls of “Tod Israel” (Death to Israel) filled the air, and several people set fire to homemade Israeli flags 100 yards from a Holocaust memorial. Cameras captured the Middle Eastern-looking young men who were sitting on each other’s shoulders and chanting in the wind so that they appeared to be spurring the energy of the entire crowd. (Ten people were arrested, mainly for covering their faces.)

Even in a Muslim or Middle Eastern context, it is somewhat surprising that the Jerusalem issue pulled together disparate and often mutually hostile groups. Only some had Palestinian heritage, while others included Turkish nationalists and Hezbollah fans. Some people were waving Syrian flags.

There hasn’t been a lot of research on anti-Semitism among Germany’s Muslim population (or, for that matter, among the majority population). But it’s not just about hand-me-down prejudices and propaganda.

Anti-Israel sentiment shading into anti-Semitism has branched out into other parts of German culture, where there is little or no innate interest in Palestine, Jerusalem, or Islam.

One of those areas is gangsta rap, a fairly recent phenomenon in Germany.

“Palestine, the region where Muslims are being treated badly by Western forces, is like a magnifying glass,” said the music producer Marcus Staiger, who describes himself as a left-wing radical and is credited as one of the early leading lights of German street rap. For second- or third-generation immigrants who feel like outsiders in German society, he told The Daily Beast, Palestine is the underdog with which they may choose to identify.

Ben Salomo, who, at the age of 40, has gotten used to being the only Jewish rap artist at any given rap battle, said solidarity for Palestine “is mainstream, is fashion.” In one incident he recalled, a groupie tried to get a bigger star’s attention backstage by pointing at him and shouting, “Look, look. That’s the Jew.”

“He [the other rapper] came very close to me like he wanted to hit me and then he was like: ‘Joke, joke,’” Salomo told The Daily Beast. “It wasn’t a joke, but one still laughs.”

THERE IS A SENSE of anti-establishment defiance in the tracks that certain rap artists have dedicated to Palestine and in the phrases where they name-drop the region (“He is hit while he throws the stone / he screams his last words loud: freedom”). But if you really want to style yourself as a rebel with a cause, then, along with occasional allusions to violent jihad (“We don’t talk long, you will be bombed”), going to war with Israel in your songs (“c’est la vie / I will do an attack like Tel Aviv”) is an effective way to be provocative.

Some of Berlin’s esteemed newspaper columnists and a Green Party politician once chastised the so-called first German gangsta rapper, Bushido, for being a bad “role model” of integration (his father is Tunisian). He had posted a map as his Twitter profile picture that showed a blank space where Israel is supposed to be. The image is used as propaganda by Hamas and extremist Palestinian organizations who deny Israel’s right to exist. But Bushido was not about to take it down. He’s had that profile picture for five years now.

Perhaps this proved inspirational to the baby-faced dyed-blond rap artist Kollegah, who kicked off his rap career by posing as a young Hugh Hefner in a silk robe while two women draped themselves over the hood of a car (“Hey, move aside, you slut / I am the big boss in the silk robe”). His stepfather is Muslim, and Kollegah, 34, converted when he was 15. Last year he grew a beard and flew to Ramallah because he wanted to shoot a documentary there for his YouTube channel.

In the resulting video, Kollegah, whose real name is Felix Blume, appeared uncharacteristically self-conscious walking around a crisis zone in a T-shirt that read “Deus Maximus,” his eyes darting about while he handed out cash and tried to control every conversation for the camera.

It was a far cry from the song he would record back home, called “Legacy,” in which he dares his critics to “Turn me into an anti-Semite because I help Palestinians / In whose home it looks like a Vietnam War zone.”

For Kollegah, who has also rapped about his “Jewish lawyers,” the Palestine film was about establishing a new kind of street credibility, according to Staiger. And judging by the outrage in the German media, as well as some of the disturbing resonance from his fans, “He is clearly hitting a nerve with his audience.“

TRADITIONALLY—AND WHEN we aren’t talking about right-wing extremists—it’s been left-wing radicals who slander Israel as the new “Third Reich” or conflate negative stereotypes of Jews with those of capitalism per se, and who have been accused of fostering anti-Semitism.

But today in Germany, the radical left is failing to stay socially relevant and mobilize young people, who perceive them as inhibited, intellectually snobbish, and caught up in a linguistic showdown over, for instance, gender marking.

And then there is the “Youth Resistance,” a gang of bomber-jacket-wearing German men in their mid-20s. Their members sometimes prowl around Berlin looking to set fire to drinking haunts they don’t like, scrawl “armed and ready” on the walls of freshly renovated apartment buildings, and beat up other left-wing radicals who may also want to “Fuck the U.S.” but don’t hate Israel, too.

So when the Israeli flags were being burned at the Brandenburg Gate last month, the Youth Resistance was right there, shouting amid the angry crowd, and the police made sure to keep an eye on them (indeed, they are generally under police surveillance).

The Youth Resistance leader, who goes by the alter ego of Taktikka, may be the only part-time musician in Germany to describe himself as a “proletarian rapper.” Taktikka appears in his pictures with a cloth tied over his mouth; his music videos are a mash-up of riot porn and a burning American flag. He doesn’t want to give his real name, and in the typical fashion of the German far left, he will only answer questions in writing.

He told The Daily Beast that he is inspired by German street rap, by the “authentic people from the Volk,” who “give the youth of the German proletariat a voice.”

The Kurdish German rapper Haftbefehl as a teenager used to deal drugs in Offenbach, the same city where Rabbi Mendel Gurewitz lives. The rapper, whose real name is Aykut Anhan, dismisses the German street rap genre as “crap” and now lives with his mother in a calmer part of town. He once wrote the line, “I sell cocaine to the Jews from the bank,” which he says is not anti-Semitic because it is just stating the fact of what he used to do.

Rabbi Gurewitz is skeptical about the way Haftbefehl talks about Offenbach: a “terrible” place where “every second person at the train station carries a knife,” according to the rapper. “This is not really true,” said Gurewitz.

But Taktikka of Youth Resistance, for his part, is a fan of Haftbefehl’s energetic and macabre work: “I like to listen to his music when I’m doing martial arts or weight training.”

Since Taktikka and his gang moved to the capital to shed their suburban upbringing for the sake of the anti-imperialist struggle, they also have boxer haircuts and like to go to the gym.

According to another activist on the scene, they are “trying to make their politics ‘swaggy,’” by which he means edgy and avant-garde in a way that will thrill the kids who think that Marx is pretentious and gangsta rap cool. At the expense, it would appear, of Germany’s Jewish community.

via Germany’s ‘New’ Anti-Semitism Is Not Just About Muslim Immigrants Versus Jews

German anti-Semitism commissioner idea backed by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere | DW

Ongoing concern:

Germany’s interior minister has joined the chorus of politicians expressing concern over the burning of Israeli flags in Berlin. Germany’s Central Council of Jews has been calling for an anti-Semitism commissioner.

Acting Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in an interview with German national newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he supports creating the position of anti-Semitism commissioner in the next German government.

The conservative De Maiziere said his support for the commissioner went beyond the most recent incidents — in which Berlin protesters burned Israeli flags to demonstrate against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — and was also based on the recommendation of an independent commission of experts.

Germany’s Central Council of Jews has also called repeatedly for an anti-Semitism commissioner to be part of the chancellor’s office.

In the interview, de Maiziere expressed his concern over the increase in anti-Semitic agitation in Germany.

“Each crime motivated by anti-Semitism is one to many and shameful for our country,” he told the paper. He also said that occurrences of derogatory comments, inappropriate jokes and discrimination towards “our fellow Jewish citizens” were on the rise.

“Hatred towards Jews must never be allowed to take hold again in Germany,” he added, alluding to Germany’s historic responsibility for the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed.

His words on the subject of anti-Semitism were the latest to emerge from a German politician in the aftermath of protests in front of the US Embassy in central Berlin and in the immigrant-heavy Neukölln neighborhood.

The minister spoke out in favor of cracking down on protesters’ actions that demonstrate a hatred of Israel, including through police action when possible.

“We cannot tolerate it when a country’s flag is burned in public,” he said. “It is the symbolic annihilation of a country’s right to exist.”

Current German law makes it illegal to burn flags and symbols of a foreign state that have been officially installed. Burning homemade or non-official flags is not a crime, though incitement to violence against Jews is.

De Maiziere said that he found the burning of homemade flags comparable to burning official ones. “I consider the burning of imitation flags to also be a disruption of public security and order.”

De Maiziere’s fellow Christian Democratic (CDU) politician and acting Chancellor Angela Merkel also has denounced the burning of Israeli symbols.

via German anti-Semitism commissioner idea backed by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere | News | DW | 17.12.2017

Holocaust must be bigger part of migrant courses: German minister

Will be interesting to see how the revised Canadian citizenship study guide portrays antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of racism and discrimination:

More emphasis should be placed on the Holocaust in integration courses for migrants, Germany’s justice minister said, reflecting heightened unease among leading politicians about a spate of anti-Semitic acts including Israeli flag burnings.

More than a million migrants have arrived in Germany in the last three years, many of them fleeing conflict in the Middle East, causing concern that anti-Semitism could increase.

German police have reported protesters setting Israeli flags ablaze and using anti-Semitic slogans in Berlin and other cities in demonstrations against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In a piece for weekly magazine Der Spiegel, Justice Minister Heiko Maas wrote that the Holocaust, in which the Nazis killed six million Jews, and its significance needed to become an even more important part of integration courses and migrants should be tested on it in the examination at the end of their course.

“The lessons from the Holocaust need to be one of the guiding ideas in those lessons and not just some chapter of German history,” he said.

“Racism has no place in Germany, so everyone who wants to stay in Germany for the long term needs to be clear that we fight the Neonazis’ anti-Semitism and we won’t tolerate any imported anti-Semitism from immigrants either,” Maas added.

Jens Spahn, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), told Der Spiegel he thought immigration from Muslim countries was one of the causes of recent anti-Semitic demonstrations in Berlin.

via Holocaust must be bigger part of migrant courses: German minister

Citizens with immigrant backgrounds lagging behind in Germany – Daily Sabah

Some good background into:

A report by the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), which conducts regular studies on ‘integration,’ has found that the divergence between immigrant-born and native Germans in key areas, such as education, the labor market and income, have mostly remained unchanged since 2005.

The study on education was conducted on young adults aged 18 to 25.

Those without a high school diploma, of an immigrant background, were 10.6 percent of the sample in 2005 and 12.1 percent in 2016.

By contrast, native Germans of that age group without a high school diploma were 4 percent in 2005 and 3.6 percent in 2016.

Regarding the labor market for people aged 15 to 64, things are somewhat different.

Unemployment has been steadily declining in Germany since the early 2000s.

Native German unemployment in 2005 was at 9.8 percent while non-natives were at a 17.9 percent. By contrast, these numbers came down to 3.4 and 7.1 percent respectively.

The numbers regarding income, however, have also remained very steady. The so-called “working poor” are a share of workers across many professions, and the percentage their group occupies has remained stagnant since 2005 as well, for both non-native and native Germans.

Native Germans at risk of poverty were about 6 percent of the working population in 2005 and rose slightly to 6.2 percent in 2016, while those of immigrant backgrounds were at 13.8 percent and decreased by 2 decimal points by last year.

There’s an area of improvement as well.

The proportion of both native Germans and those of an immigrant background of 25-to under-35-year-olds with a university degree has all but equalized in the country.

About 17 percent of native Germans of that age group held university degrees in 2005, with people of an immigrant background lagging behind at 13.9 percent. Their share of university degree holders, however, has increased substantially since 2015.

By 2016, however, both native Germans and non-natives held degrees at an equal 26.1 percent.

Germany has seen a massive influx of people of African and Middle Eastern decent over the past two years. Exact numbers are not known, since hundreds of thousands of those who arrived since 2015 have gone off the grid, but it is estimated that nearly 2 million people got in.

A total of 18.6 million people with foreign roots live in Germany. A lot of them are of Turkish decent, descendants of guest workers who decided to stay in Germany after they were invited in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nearly a quarter of the country, 22.5 percent, are reported to have an “immigrant background” according to Destatis.

via Citizens with immigrant backgrounds lagging behind in Germany – Daily Sabah

ICYMI – Islam in Germany: Muslims prefer to be talked to rather than talked about | DW | 03.10.2017

Understandable concerns of German Muslim communities:

On a day celebrating German unity, many Muslims have reason to wonder if “German unity” applies to them in light of recent federal election results. The third strongest party in the Bundestag will be the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party which has rejected the Islamic faith as part of German cultural identity.

October 3 is the country’s national holiday and, for many Germans, just a day to sleep in or earn some extra cash at work. For mosques around the country, however, it’s the day of their national open house: neighbors can take a tour, satisfy their curiosity about Islam and local Muslims and – of course – eat.

To be Muslim and nonpartisan

Indeed the smell of oil and charcoal wafting into the prayer room is the only indication that something different is going on at this Cologne mosque. The plush Bourdeaux carpeting of the sacred space seems to absorb all outside sounds – and our feet – as Tarik Yilmaz and Mustafa Karatas talk community outreach.

“Our religion is at the forefront of our work. Not politics,” Karatas tells DW.

Germany’s mosques began annual open houses in 1997 and have carried forth the tradition ever since. Technically, though, most mosques in Germany are open year round to the public upon appointment

Muslims have become the center of many heated debates over public safety, women’s rights and even loyalty to the German state in recent years. Hence, dispelling misconceptions is one of their priorities. However, they emphasize that this work is nonpartisan, just like their cooperation with local religious groups and charities.

“It’s a mosque community so it’s a good idea not to be politically active,” the board’s representative explains.

Yilmaz, a 27-year-old theologian who recently started working at the primarily Turkish house of worship, agrees: “People come here to pray or because they have friends here and to eat some food. We don’t really talk politics.”

Still, in a community where they have strong partnerships, what do they make of the AfD winning over 9 percent in their constituency? An answer is out of the question.

Feeling the pain of neo-Nazi terrorism

Just a few blocks away from that mosque and theology school in northeastern Cologne is the site of a nailbomb attack perpetrated by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU). It was a hit on the Turkish community and an attack on social cohesion and multiculturalism in Cologne.

The wounds of the attack lie much deeper than the shrapnel that left over 20 injured in June 2004. The terrorist attack on Keupstrasse was one of a dozen the NSU carried out between 2000 and 2007. Yet, despite the attackers’ identities being known to police in the late 1990s, it wasn’t until a botched robbery brought the right-wing terror cell to light in 2011 that officials cleared members of the Turkish community of suspicion.

The bomb planted by the NSU sent over 700 nails flying through Keupstrasse. For several years, officials interrogated locals suspecting the crime to be linked to Turkish mafia

The case has raised questions about right-wing sympathizers among police and a how large the blind spot to right-wing extremism in Germany is.

And, with the rise of the a party like the AfD – one whose leaders have made racist and Islamophobic comments, as well as relativized the Holocaust and have been known to use Nazi rhetoric – critics worry that a far-right party in parliament could embolden the country’s radical right-wing scene.

Rising violence toward Muslims

For Ahmed Erdogan, like many on Keupstrasse, the swift rise of the far-right AfD has been a shock. “Where will this lead?” he wonders.

Tucked away from the frilly bridal dress shops and bounteous bakery display cases that line Keupstrasse, the local mosque is easy to overlook. It’s one of the oldest in the Cologne neighborhood of Mühlheim, where over 40 percent of the population has foreign roots. According to Erdogan, who’s on its board, it has been and remains very active in community outreach and cooperation – making the AfD’s popularity all the more puzzling.

Infografik AfD Bundestagswahl 2017 Bundesländer ENG

This year, there have nearly 20 attacks on Muslims and nearly 400 incidents of “Islamophobic crimes,” ranging from hate speech, threats and damage to property, according to a governmental inquiry from the Left party. As it’s the first year officials have assessed the crime rate against Muslims, no previous data for comparison has been analyzed.

Meanwhile, the AfD’s rhetoric surrounding Islam has also raised concerns. In addition to dismissing the religion – one practiced by over 4 million people in Germany – as being a part of German society, the AfD also wants to prohibit minarets and the call to prayer.

“The AfD sees a great danger to our state, our society and our set of values through the spread of Islam and the presence of over 5 million Muslims, whose numbers are increasing,” the AfD said in its party platform, which states that Muslims who obey the law and are “integrated” are “valued members of society.” The far-right party denies all accusations of Islamophobic or racist rhetoric.

Given the need for dialogue these days, mosques can choose to stay out of politics, but as a Muslim it’s hard to “keep out it,” Erdogan tells DW.

The Keupstrasse mosque doesn’t participate in the national open house because it’s open to anyone everyday, just like most mosques. And if there’s one point Erdogan and his colleagues at the neighboring mosque agree on, it’s this: dialogue – and not fear – is the only way forward.

Source: Islam in Germany: Muslims prefer to be talked to rather than talked about | Germany | DW | 03.10.2017

Germany’s election and the educational polarisation of voters | Times Higher Education (THE)

Interesting analysis:

Germany has voted. Angela Merkel is weakened, but she remains chancellor and is now seeking new coalition partners for government.

Instead of focusing on what the election means for German higher education and research policy – which probably won’t become clear until months of coalition negotiations have concluded – I want to highlight some interesting voting patterns among German graduates.

In the United States and the UK, it’s now a commonplace observation that voters seem increasingly divided by levels of education rather than traditional cleavages like levels of income. In the ballots of 2016 and 2017, graduates tended to take the side of more open, pro-cosmopolitan parties and politicians (Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, Hillary Clinton, Remain in the UK’s EU referendum) against more closed, nationalistic forces (Theresa May’s Conservatives, Leave, Donald Trump).

You can certainly quibble with these groupings, but the overall trend is unmistakable.

For example, in this year’s UK general election, graduates were 10 percentage points less likely to back the Conservatives, and nine percentage points more likely to vote for Labour, than the broader voting public.

The divide was even starker last year during the EU referendum, when 68 per cent of graduates voted to remain.

Meanwhile, in the US election, Clinton won college graduates by a nine percentage point margin, while Trump won everyone else by eight points. “This is by far the widest gap in support among college graduates and non-college graduates in exit polls dating back to 1980,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Is the same thing happening in Germany? Ostensibly not – German graduates seem more in line with their fellow citizens than in the UK or the US. This is most clearly visible when you look at the graduate vote share for Germany’s political parties arranged on the left to right political spectrum:

In terms of the bigger parties, graduates were a little less likely than other voters to vote for Merkel’s conservatives (CDU/CSU) – but exactly the same was true of the social democrats (SPD).German graduates voting patterns

Graduates were both more likely to opt for the radically left-wing Die Linke – and the almost diametrically opposed (at least on economic matters) Free Democratic Party (FDP). This feels very different from the US and UK, where graduates have come down heavily on one side or the other in the votes of the past two years.

Why might this be? A couple of potential reasons spring to mind. Germany is famed for the quality of its vocational education, which, although under pressure, still offers the hope of a well respected and remunerated life course that does not require university. Non-graduates are perhaps less likely to be economically “left behind” than in other countries.

There is also still no real equivalent of the Ivy League, Oxbridge or the grandes écoles in Germany, meaning that attending (a certain type of) university is arguably less of a prerequisite for power and influence.

But have a look at the chart again – there are nonetheless signs that educational polarisation is beginning to take root in Germany.

Graduates heavily backed the Greens, who, aside from their environmental policies, are known as supporters of multiculturalism, and have several high-profile leaders with a Turkish family background. The AfD on the other hand are emphatically against multiculturalism and have leaders who have made a series of brazenly racist statements; they were largely shunned by voters who have been to university.

As the AfD’s entry into parliament shows, Germany is not immune from the divisions afflicting the UK, the US and many other European countries. It will be interesting to see if the country becomes just as polarised on educational grounds as well.

Source: Germany’s election and the educational polarisation of voters | Times Higher Education (THE)