Turks in Germany Very Uncomfortable with Racism after Norway Incident
Turks in Germany have been the target of attacks in the past but if it happens again, they might not remain idle, says Professor Faruk Şen. He argues that a deepening economic crisis could increase hostility to Turks by the fall. There is also a risk that Turkish youth would react to such attack, Şen says: ‘Just one spark could be all it might takes’
The deepening economic crisis in Europe could make Turks in Germany the target of a new wave of attacks, which may not go unreciprocated this time, according to an expert on Turkish-German relations.
Professor Faruk Şen, the head of the German Foundation of Education and Scientific Research, spoke with the Hürriyet Daily News following a deadly, racially charged attack in Norway, which coincided with the 50th year since the first large wave of Turkish immigration to Germany.
In the last decade or so of these five decades, Turks in Germany have increasingly become the target of racist attacks, some of which have been deadly. Just one incident could trigger broader conflict, Şen told the Daily News in an interview.
Following the attacks in Norway you issued a statement saying that Turks in Europe could become the target of attacks as well. But won’t the Norway incident serve as a wakeup call, making the police more vigilant and society more conscious, reducing the risk of new attacks?
In Europe there is a phenomenon that I call “new racism.” It is more dangerous than the racism of the past. Islamophobia and Turkophobia have now reached the elites.
In the 1990s Turks were attacked by skinheads who had not even finished primary school, people without any future, with low IQ levels. But with the economic crisis in the 2000s, hostility against Turks has reached higher classes in the society. German Central Banker Thilo Sarrazin made racist remarks against Turks last year. He was thrown out of the Central Bank only three months later. But he is still a member of the German Social Democratic Party.
When Arab kids in France rioted six years ago following statements of then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, I said similar things would not happen in Germany because the situation with the Turks there was different. But now the unemployment rate among Turks has reached 30 percent. One spark could be enough.
There are signs that by September or October, the economic situation could get worse and I fear this could trigger new attacks against Turks. This fear is shared by a lot of Turkish nongovernmental organizations active in Germany. Even the interior minister of Bavaria said he expected similar events to take place in his state.
So if there are new attacks in Germany, the youth of the Turkish community will react, rather than remain silent?
I don’t want to exaggerate. But there is a risk. One incident can trigger the youth to react. Turkish youth criticized both Turkey and Germany for not showing enough sensitivity to the Solingen incident [where five Turkish women died in a fire started by Germans in 1993]. In the past, when Turkish youth went to nightclubs in Germany, they posed as Italians. But after the Solingen incident, they claimed their own [Turkish] identity. Also, some among the new generation make a lot of money, wear the most expensive shoes and go to the most expensive places. They are more demanding and aware of their rights. They don’t want to be excluded. Their parents were not like them. They remained silent.
And this recently empowered Turkish community is now facing a new racism that has gone main stream?
Racism exists even among elites. As they feel the negative effects of the economic crisis, they now fear their job can be taken by successful Turks. There is racism even among academics, who fear the competition from academics of Turkish origin. Until recently there were no professors of Turkish origin in [Germany’s] universities.
So while Germans are complaining about Turks’ lack of integration, they also fear the well-integrated Turks. Isn’t this a contradiction?
Yes, but there are not only winners among Turks there are also losers. Twenty-two percent of the Turks live under the poverty line. Crime rates among Turkish youth are higher than among German youth.
How do you assess the situation now that 50 years has passed since the immigration agreement was signed between Turkey and Germany?
It is like a glass that is half full and half empty. On the one hand we have the winners. We have 144,000 Turkish entrepreneurs in Europe. The number of academics is on the rise. But on the other hand we have the losers in the ghettos.
In your statement following the Norway incident you made a call on the government. What is your expectation from Turkey?
Turkey has become very sensitive as far as its foreign policy is concerned. Turkey takes sides when something happens in Libya or Syria. I believe Turkey should be a party when it comes to the problems of Turks in Germany. It should be more sensitive and ask the German government to protect the Turkish community. Turkish ambassadors in European countries should meet and discuss measures in case Turks in Europe become targets of attacks.
But every time the Turkish prime minister goes to Germany, his messages spark crisis.
Following the death of nine Turks in a fire in Ludwighafen in 2008, we called on German Chancellor Merkel to gather the representatives of the Turks and talk about measures. She did not listen to us. Then Turkish PM came to address the Turks in the city. If you don’t protect your citizens, because at least 1 million of the nearly 3 million Turks have German citizenship, then it is normal for the Turkish PM to come and speak out. I endorse the messages he gave in Germany.
WHO IS FARUK SEN?
A major figure in the field of Turkish-German relations, Professor Faruk Şen established himself in Germany in the 1970s and returned to Turkey nearly a year ago. After studying management and working at Bamberg and Essen universities, Şen established the Foundation of Turkey Research Center in Bonn in 1985 and has focused since then on Turkish communities in Europe. He is currently the director of the board of the German Foundation of Education and Scientific Research and works actively for the establishment of a Turkish-German university. Professor Şen has written several books and articles on economics, social sciences and immigration in three languages, including English.
August 5, 2011
SOURCE: Hürriyet Daily News