Our Austrian correspondent AMT has compiled a report based on three articles from Kurier on the continuing public controversy about the integration of Turks — or lack thereof — into Austrian culture. Many thanks to JLH for the bulk translations. AMT’s commentary is in square brackets within the articles.
Istanbul on the Danube
Who would have guessed that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to Germany a couple of weeks ago would have impacted Austria in such a way that spring-like buds of knowledge, rather than negation, make their way to the surface?
To my knowledge, Kurier columnist Peter Rabl is the first journalist to invite those unwilling or unable to integrate to “live out their Turkishness in their own homeland.” What is surprising in this case is the utter lack of outcry from the establishment: neither politicians nor the army of lawyers and NGOs have so far branded Mr. Rabl a racist. One wonders what is going on here:
Turks the Biggest Problem for Integration
March, 12. 2011
by Peter Rabl
Among the big lies in the integration debate are the customary statistical averages of all immigrants living here. If, as seldom happens, you break down the data by nationality, the immigrant Turks prove to be the biggest problem. And the nationalistic government in Ankara purposefully resists the integration of their emigrated compatriots.
Recently, the newsmagazine Der Spiegel published data on the degree of integration of immigrants to Germany, which can definitely be extended to Austria. On a scale of 1 = failed integration to 8 = successful integration, the immigrants from EU states rate 7.0, those from the Far East rate 6.8. The Turks are far down at 1.3
And from the viewpoint of the nationalistic regime of President Erdogan, that is fine. Two years ago at a speech in Cologne, he had already termed assimilation a “crime against humanity.” Two weeks ago in Düsseldorf, he followed up: For Turkish emigrants, Turkish must be the first language learned, and only then German. “You are my citizens,” shouted Erdogan to his followers. “I am here to see to your well-being.”
Major Problem — German
An Austrian parliamentary delegation was faced with such expressions of official policy in Ankara. Requiring German courses at home, as provided in the new alien law, was perceived as “more of a provocation. A Turk will always feel like a Turk. We just have a very strong national consciousness.”
For decades immigrants have been encouraged in this feeling in their mosques, whose imams are sent and paid by the official Turkish religious office. Now an additional dedicated agency is being created to concern itself with emigrants.
Even the ethnic Turkish integration spokesperson Korun, from the Green Party, finds that the policy of “You must remain Turks” is something that we “need like a hole in the head.”
In easily 50 per cent of Turkish families in this country, Turkish is exclusively spoken, Turkish TV watched and Turkish newspapers read. The result is severe a deficit in German abilities, extending into the third generation — even after successful graduation from secondary school. The consequence is a statistical overrepresentation of Turks among school dropouts and unemployed.
From this and the far higher birth rate of Turkish immigrants, a social problem develops that urgently needs to be confronted. Against Ankara’s nationalism, with appropriate pressure for integration of the Turks living here. But as a last resort, in certain cases, also the invitation to preferably live out their pure Turkishness in their own homeland rather than in an unwelcome parallel world among us. [emphasis added]
Austrian Interior Minister Maria Fekter has been known for her outspokenness and understanding of the situation with regard to
Muslim immigrants exhibiting not the slightest interest in learning basic German or integrating into Austrian society. She has insisted time and again that German skills are absolutely imperative for integration to succeed, though this has so far not been proven. I remain skeptical that rudimentary German skills are sufficient for integration to take place. But it is a start:
“German Before Immigration Bothers Only Fundamentalists”
March 12, 2011
Maria Fekter sees problems with integration of Turks. She is considering a German language and a training instruction requirement for imams in Austria.
An Austrian parliamentary delegation — as reported — was on an integration mission in Ankara last week. The results were sobering: “Turks stay Turks” was heard often from politician and experts. The existence of integration problems in Austria was disputed.
Kurier: Is integration a foreign word to Turkish politicians? Fekter: This is not new to me. The demeanor of President Erdogan and the very clear positions of the Turkish ambassador in Vienna lead to the suspicion that there are efforts to bind Turkish emigrants more closely to Turkey. The fact is that the great majority of them are well integrated, living according to Western values. There are big problems with only a small group. They provocatively carry their Don’t-Want-To-Be-Integrated like a shield. Kurier: One of Erdogan’s advisors sees German courses in other countries as a “provocation.” Fekter: We require German before they come here. There are tons of language schools. It is easy to learn German. [The Greens and their affiliated whining NGOs are unhappy about this; they say that it is impossible for Pakistani or Bangladeshi, even Turkish immigrants to study German before coming to Austria. Well, duh, if these would-be immigrants find this hurdle too high, perhaps they should just stay where they are.] Our experience is that many of them, especially women, come to us without a word of German — even after they have been Austrians for a long time. German before immigration disturbs the fundamentalists. It bothers them just as much that we have raised the age for arranged marriages to 21. Kurier: Is there a consciousness on the Turkish side of problems with forced marriages? Fekter: I have discussed that with the Turkish ambassador and with Anas Schakfeh (president of the Islamic religious community). Both of them said straight out: They cannot change that. It is tradition. In a certain group — real traditionalists from rural areas — it is common practice. They insist that we not interfere. There are great gaps in the knowledge of health problems that occur when children are produced in a familiar circle across several generations. [Taqiyya, anyone? Forced marriages are not a tradition, everyone knows that, even the Islamic religious community. They do not want to stop it. If it were “only” a tradition, then it would be more than easy to stop it.] Kurier: Is that a mass problem or individual cases? Fekter: We know that a third of ethnic Turkish girls disappear from the education system after the requisite school attendance. [Sounds like a mass problem, doesn’t it?] That is an indication that they are being taken care of in the group — and that functions even beyond marriage. A third! It is not proof, but an indicator of what numbers are involved. Kurier: Turkey is planning a new agency for Turks in foreign countries, to better supervise them. Does that make sense? Fekter: We already have the imam organizations. Imams are leaders in the community, are Turkish citizens and are bound by President Erdogan’s instructions. With that, Turkey already has a long reach in Austria. I am uncomfortable with having structures here that are subordinate to the Turkish state. We are also offering instruction for imams in Vienna, but they do not make use of it. [Now why would that be?] Those we would like to see there, do not go there. Only the more moderate ones come. [Who are the moderate ones? Where do they preach? What do they preach? A different Koran?] And that makes us worry. We have to consider whether there should be a requirement that imams be instructed in Austria. A German test for imams is also necessary to consider. [How about first scrutinizing the teachings of Islam as required by the Law on Islam?] Kurier: Will you increase the pressure on immigrants? Fekter: There are two big worries. We Austrians have difficulty dealing with religious symbols that we encounter visibly. The head-covering, to be sure, harms no one — but it bothers Austrians very much. [It harms no one? Are you kidding me? Six-year-olds covered from head to toe are not harmed by their coverings? These young children can be observed on Viennese streets. They are a reality. Wake up, Madam Minister!] The other side has a big problem with emancipation and equal treatment for women. They find that deeply suspect and they reject it. [Now, why would they do that? Perhaps it is the content of their religion?] We must work on these two basic problems, We must state clearly what we expect: it is not acceptable to have a surfeit of young people who have just a school completion certificate — or not even that. That starts with the language deficit. Students can’t understand what is going on in school, no certificate, no apprenticeship, no credentials. We must break through that.
The final “Wow!” experience comes from members of a parliamentary delegation comprising MPs from ÖVP. They recently visited Ankara and were bluntly told that Turks in Austria have no intention of integrating into Austrian society. My first thought was: “Well, they could have saved the money by going to the culturally enriched areas in Vienna, accompanied by members of the Wiener Akademikerbund. But apparently, these parliamentarians do not believe their own voters, or former voters. But, then again, it’s a start:
Immigration “Unsettles People”
March 13, 2011
(Kurier interview by editor Christian Böhmer with ÖVP [Austrian Peoples Party] parliamentary group head, Karlheinz Kopf and UETD [Union of European Turkish Democrats] spokesman Sami Akpinar.)
Discussion: What can Ankara contribute to the integration of Turks? And should Austria give imams instruction?
Are German courses for Turks a provocation? What are the real problems of the ethnic Turkish community and how can they be resolved?
Kurier: Parliamentary Group Director Kopf, you were in Ankara recently to hear suggestions for the integration debate from politicians and scientists. Are you satisfied with the answers? Kopf: To say the least, I was surprised. What was the starting situation? We have 200,000 immigrants of Turkish background and they are to some extent not well-integrated. Our question was: How can integration work better? I had the impression in official Turkey, to the contrary, that the message is, “Stay Turkish!” That is essential. [My God, he got it!] Kurier: Can you understand, Mr. Akpinar? Akpinar: I grew up in Vorarlberg, like to look at pages 213 and 214 in the Teletext to see how Altach and Lustenau are doing in soccer. Why shouldn’t we consider a constructive cooperation in the integration process with Turkey? A negative interference would be counterproductive. We are well-advised to first pay attention to the population in Austria, because the integration problem is not ethnic, it is social. Kopf: I’m with you. If at most 70% of Turkish immigrants complete their educational requirement; if unemployment is twice that of Austrians, that leads to isolation and parallel societies. The Turkish government knows all that and still shout-outs keep coming. Kurier: Mr. Akpinar, why does Turkish President Erdogan tell his countrymen “Learn Turkish first and then German”? Akpinar: The president encouraged people to stay true to their roots and to learn German. The basis of integration is the common language — there is no doubt about that. At the same time, we must see that Erdogan is addressing tens of thousands of people in Europe. What has gone wrong? I believe communication has failed. [Elaborate please.] Kopf: But why do the second and third generation of Turkish immigrants not feel themselves to be Austrians? Akpinar: Because there is a lack of models. For example, when staffers of the UETD counsel students, the young people often ask: Are you really a doctor or an architect? They don’t believe an ethnic Turk can succeed. Kopf: But why doesn’t official Turkey let its people go? Why pay for a religious office with 60,000 employees? The religious office in the Austrian education ministry has only three employees — because we are a secular state. [These three employees are unable to verify the teachings of the Koran.] Akpinar: We can solve the problem quickly. Austria should educate imams, who will then take over religious duties. [Paid for by the Austrian taxpayer, right? How about educating imams back in Turkey?] Kopf: That would be a step away from [Turkey] usurping the function. But at the moment, the imams are paid by Ankara, stay a few years and leave. That looks like they don’t want to let go. Akpinar: I am with you. We have to resolve the problem here, not in Turkey. [How?] Kurier: Why is Ankara pushing the assimilation debate? No politician in Austria is calling for the assimilation of the Turks. Akpinar: Voluntary assimilation is fine, but when we say “You must give up your religion, your manner of clothing or the way you think,” that is dangerous. [The way one thinks: denying women their basic rights under the Austrian constitution must never be allowed in Austria. This way of thinking must be denied. Take it or leave it.] Basic rights are violated. [Which rights? One is free to return to the country of origin if one is not happy dressing the way one does in a secular European country.] Kopf: And there is an area of tension. Our legal system is based on values that do not accord with Islam. Child marriage, forced marriages, all that makes people here nervous. Out culture does not accept that. Akpinar: But these subjects are not statistically relevant. I don’t know of any forced marriages or marriages with minors. These are not the immigrants’ problems. [Of course not, they are all the product of our imagination, right?] Kurier: How can we rehabilitate those fellow citizens who have lived here for a long time, hardly speak any German, only watch Turkish television, patronize the Turkish baker, etc. Can and should we change that? Akpinar: An example is the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Company), which in contrast to the ZDF (German Second Television) has no Turkish moderators or actors. In Germany, there are series where German-speaking Turks in Istanbul are solving criminal cases… [Yes, Turkish moderators are the answer… But only so that the majority population learns Turkish…] Kopf: SOKO (Special Investigation Commission) Istanbul… Akpinar: Exactly! Kopf: But is that enough of an explanation? That there are no ethnic Turkish actors on television? Akpinar: Certainly. The young people don’t feel themselves represented. There is also a dearth of heroes. In Germany, the head of the Greens is a Turk. That is formative. Turks like to emulate. Kopf: I hear from female teachers that fathers refuse to talk to them about their children, because they want to talk to a man. What are the teachers to do? Akpinar: That is a minority with the wrong attitude. In a Turkish household, the wife is the [lady] boss. Kopf: We are more macho than the Turks? Akpinar: (laughs) In most households, the Turkish husband has nothing to say. You wouldn’t believe what all my father does for housework. Cooking, ironing, cleaning. Mamma Mia!