Our Austrian correspondent ESW has translated a pair of articles about the “parallel society” of Turks in Austria, and the debate that has arisen after the politically incorrect words of Thilo Sarrazin were publicized.
The translator includes this note:
This past weekend the Austrian newspaper Die Presse once again focused on Turkish migrants. It seems that the Turks must be the only migrant group in Austria. Certainly the Polish or the Germans — who according to a socialist member of government constitute the largest migrant groups in Austria — do not get the same sort of coverage. Now what might be the reason for that?
What is interesting about the articles below is their openness in addressing the problems. However, one comment from the online articles summed it up well:
“My God, dear Presse: Why bother writing the articles? Why not just write the following: It’s the Austrians’ fault. Always and forever.”
Immigration and the welfare state show us that the politically correct are crazy. People like Thilo Sarrazin are helping them to adjust their view of reality.
Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the board of Deutsche Bundesbank, has now lost responsibility for the bank’s cash flow, while still in charge of risk controlling. This was a pretty Austrian “punishment” for saying “evil things” in an interview with the magazine “Lettre International” about Berlin and its immigrants, especially about Turks and Arabs.
His malicious comments about the production of headscarved girls and vegetables have become popular. A short summary of the debate surrounding Sarrazin would look something like this: He is right about nearly everything, but you can’t say it like he did. Naturally, all those who are sick of political correctness are furious because it associates everything sounding remotely like plain speaking with racism. At the same time, political correctness goes too far for those who really want to be politically correct: They believe that all people, especially those with an immigrant background, are inherently good. These immigrants, living in — say — Berlin, Vienna, and London are suffering simply because they are not seen as the enrichment they think they are. They are saying: Sarrazin is wrong, and this is obvious from the way he chose to say it.
Well, they are wrong. Sarrazin is right not only with regards to content. He also said the way it needs to be said. Not only in terms of the immigration question, but also in the welfare state debate — which are in tandem with immigration within the welfare system — have the German-Austrian engineers of social welfare failed. The language vehicles belonging to the mechanics of welfare have crashed: these chauffeurs of political correctness — with their political swerving — have driven the pushcart of discussion against the wall. There is no longer anyone who believes them. This because there is hardly anyone left whose personal experiences in welfare matters correspond with politically correct doctrine. Which, in turn, can only mean the following: for someone who doesn’t consider himself crazy, it is the politically correct who are out of their minds.
Well, they are crazy: their struggle in favor of a concern that must not be denounced has moved their perception of reality. It is up to people without a political agenda, like Thilo Sarrazin, to move it back: Turkish students — if they had a halfway decent upbringing — use a similar language to that of Sarrazin when speaking about their Austrian (female) teachers. These Turkish students understand what Thilo Sarrazin is saying. If we stopped using clear language simply out of fear of antagonizing the addressees even more, Henryk Broder’s prophecy would come true:
“Hurray, we’re capitulating.”
And we should not do that. Not to those immigrants unwilling to integrate, not to the killer arguments of the politically correct and not to the former neo-Nazis.
“Unwilling to integrate” — this is the accusation more and often confronting the Turkish community. Many consider this an exaggeration. But some Turks themselves criticize the tendency towards parallel societies.
The buzzwords characterizing the latest integration debate have flown by Mehmet Yurtseven and Yusuf Can. Thilo Sarrazin? Parallel societies? Turks unwilling to integrate? They both have different worries.
The teenagers are standing in front of the bleak entrance area of the Public Employment Service Austria (AMS) for young adults. There is the Maturaschule Dr. Roland [a private school offering courses to make up high school certificates] on the left; on the right there is the door to AMS Young Adults. Mehmet and Yusuf choose the door on the right. They are seeking work. It is a few minutes before ten a.m., and in a few minutes they will meet their adviser. Mehmet, whose hair is hidden by a black woolen cap, dropped out of high school (specializing in technical professions) and wants to start an apprenticeship in December. Yusuf, taller than Mehmet and clad in a leather jacket, found studying at the polytechnic school “a bit hard”. “I had one of the strictest teachers of the entire school,” he defends himself. Soon he will attend a special course to help him choose the right career in order to start an apprenticeship. Perhaps.
Mehmet and Yusuf are typing on their cell phones; they are wearing jeans and hooded sweaters; and they live in the 10th district [a district in Vienna with a high rate of immigrants]. They missed out on their education, and they are only sixteen years old. Their vita so far is unspectacular, and so is their place is the negative tables of statistics: 12,000 young adults between the age of 15 and 20 are currently “seeking work”, more than 65% of which have a migration background; the rate of unemployment among young adults with Turkish background was 18.4% in 2007, among Austrian young adults, 7.4%. The latest OECD study reveals that of the 20- to 29-year-olds with a migration background, the proportion of those without a high school certificate or a completed professional education is three times as high as that of young adults without a migration background.
Is the case of the two guys, who are on course to a very precarious future, a failure of integration politics? Is it a lack of interest? Has integration failed? Mehmet Yurtseven sees this differently: “Is doesn’t matter is you’re Austrian or Turkish.” He doesn’t understand the problem. “I have no problem with them.” He is talking about the Austrians. Mehmet is an Austrian citizen.
Who is Thilo Sarrazin? Mehmet and Yusuf do not know Thilo Sarrazin, the former Bundesbank manager and former SPD senator from Berlin, who said in an interview that the majority of German Turks are “neither willing nor able to integrate.” It was Sarrazin who spoke of Turks taking over Germany and “producing more and more little hijab girls.”
It was Sarrazin who started the debate, which will not die down soon, even though Sarrazin apologized and said that not every word was “wisely chosen”. For some he — relatively unsuspicious as a member of SPD (unlike FPÖ-leader Heinz-Christian Strache) — finally articulated something that had long been simmering below the surface of peacefully living next to each other; for others his words were outright racism. For instance, for Maria Anna Six-Hohenbalken of the Akademie der Wissenschaften (Academy of Sciences): it is a historical phenomenon to consider Turkish immigrants “problematic”, according to the cultural anthropologist. “Since the 16th century, there has been an tendency to classify the Orientals in ‘good’ and ‘bad’.”
Unskilled laborers without any chances.
Six stories above the heads of Mehmet and Yusuf, in the AMS office, there are question marks on the faces of the AMS director, Gerda Challuper, and the diversity manager, Ali Ordubadi, regarding the tilt in numbers, and why it is the Turkish children and young adults at the end of the statistics. Their parents often lack education, are less qualified compared to other migrant groups, and these families are often uniformed about the school system and the labor market. “In the past, the parents always found work as unskilled laborers,” says Ali Ordubadi. “They are passing on these experiences. But the job market has changed. You can’t find a job as an unskilled laborer nowadays.”
On the other hand, there are half-baked ideas with regards to the education of the children. Ordubadi has often heard the following: “My child must become a doctor or lawyer.” But how the desired title is to be achieved leaves the parents clueless. “That is where they are helpless.” Ordubadi criticizes integration policies: “We have not identified the migrants’ need for a differentiated explanation.”
In nine months AMS will be able to speak the language of its target audience. A DVD in Turkish, among other languages, will then inform about the school system and job possibilities. This DVD will be shown in clubs and mosques, to the fathers who often still call the shots. It is actually just a harmless DVD. However, it does show the conflict about the right strategy of integration politics. Should institutions and social workers be respectful of cultures and languages of the migrants? People like Sarrazin probably think this is a waste of time.
Margit Wolf, managing director of Interface, a language institute offering German language courses like “Mama is learning German”, believes that “respect is very important”. When women apply for the German courses, their husbands usually accompany them. They are skeptical and want to know what is being taught. There would be no positive results if the culturally sensitive persuasion of the institute’s employees, argues Wolf. “We must give the men a feeling of security, that it is just a language course and that we are not mobilizing against them — the men.” She cannot comprehend the allegation of Turkish women not wanting to learn German. “Many of them come from a low education background. It is a big step for them to register for these courses.”
But still: taking stock of working women of migrant background, the situation is not a rosy one. The majority of Turkish women are at home, taking care of the household and rearing children on their own. While 40% of Turkish women work, it is more than two-thirds of Austrian women. At the same time these numbers are not surprising considering the fact that Turkish women give birth to more children than Austrian women: The latter 1.3 children, the former more than twice as many, 2.6. The family remains important for the entire lifespan. “Children are very important in our culture, “ says Ruhi Göler, who works at the Ankara Market in Brunnengasse (a district inhabited by a high number of Turks). But he is also concerned that many young men are growing up on the streets. “This is how they find bad friends,” Göler cites his fears. Sixteen-year-old Maki also prefers to meet his friends without his parents chaperoning, most often in the Millennium City (a shopping center in Vienna). He does not consider his friends a “gang” or even a “mob”. He says, “There is a lot going on there. My friends and I are simply hanging out.”
Turkish head to toe
Moving a few kilometers south, to the former workers’ district of Favoriten: It is not a district that is considered attractive to live in. But there are many Turkish shops in the vicinity of Quellenplatz and Reumannplatz. A butcher, a jeweler, a supermarket, and a furniture store: Even if one doesn’t speak good German, one can get around well in this area.
From this perspective it makes sense that the road to a German language course is a rocky one. “There are many women in my course who have lived in Austria for the last 20 or 30 years and who are attending a German language course for the first time,” reports one teacher who wants to remain anonymous. She teaches AMS-sponsored language courses in Favoriten. Three quarters of the women are Turkish and wear a headscarf. “They truly live in a parallel world: They are either at home or in the park, and shop only in Turkish shops,” the teacher tells us. The course is considered “a welcome diversion”; a job hunt, except as kitchen work or cleaning lady, is seldom successful.
Anthropologist Six-Hohenbalken does not want to use these words. She is afraid that talk of parallel societies will result in them arising. “This is how people are excluded from society and brought to seek contacts in only their surroundings.”
While local politics in Vienna seldom has anything to say about successful coexistence in Favoriten, the — Turkish — area surrounding the Brunnenmarkt in the district of Ottakring is considered a multicultural flagship project. The market is newly renovated, there is a cultural area, and rent prices have risen as a result of middle class Austrians moving into the area. City planners call this phenomenon “upgrading” or “gentrification”. The Austrians meet at Yppenplatz for their Saturday brunch in the city’s most famous Turkish restaurant and buy their groceries at the Brunnenmarkt (from Turkish shop owners). But still: even here is a parallel world between the Austrians and the Turks. A few words here or there during the shopping, nothing more. And there is hardly an Austrian who ventures to the Turkish cafes in the side streets.
Home country Austria.
Neydet Karasu is sitting at a table in the cafe Safak and is working on crossword from the newspaper Hürriyet. The television set is blasting Turkish news. Karasu is sixty years old, sometimes he has chest pains, perhaps because he had carry heavy loads during his job as deliveryman. He sees life in the district in a critical way. “If there are many Turks, everyone speaks only Turkish,” says he who wants to stay in Austria, his “second home country”. “One tends to forget German.”
Thirty-nine-year-old Dolunay Yerit moved to Brunnenmarkt only a short while ago. “Because of a large loft and the excellent infrastructure.” Sometimes the lawyer, who works for the Austrian Business Agency, wonders about her surroundings: “When I see women running around in harem pants, unable to speak a word of German, I think to myself ‘Something went wrong here’.” And why did it work out for her? Her upbringing was an open one, and although she spoke Turkish at home, her parents insisted on her learning German and getting a good education, as well as “consciously participating in society”. Yerit does not want to be seen as showcase Turk. She thinks that the lack of migrants in the public sphere or the media is a disadvantage. “There is a lack of role models.” Yerit’s own definition of integration: “Integration is a success if we no longer need to discuss it.”