Germany’s inflamed public debate about Islam and integration risks serious overheating as politicians compete to make ever tougher statements criticizing Muslims immigrants they accuse of refusing to fit in here.
The escalating row, sparked off when a Bundesbank board member slammed Muslims as dim-witted welfare spongers, has mixed some social problems and some Muslim customs into a vision of Islam as a looming menace to German society. (Photo: Chancellor Angela Merkel tells CDU meeting that multicultural policies have failed, in Potsdam, 16 Oct. 2010/Thomas Peter)
When President Christian Wulff tried to build bridges by saying Islam was now part of German society, critics retorted the country was based on “Judeo-Christian values” and should not accept any more immigrants from foreign cultures.
Amid the uproar, many politicians and media have lumped together about four million residents — Turks, Arabs, Afghans, converts and others, many with German citizenship — simply as Muslims and tarred them all with problems many do not have.
The debate crackles with harsh terms like “Germanophobia” and “integration refusers” that signal growing frustration with the difficulty Germany has had with people it allowed into the country but did not welcome into the society.