“Integration”, “Intercultural Dialogue”, and the Failure of the Austrian State

Sebastian KurzBack in April, our Austrian correspondent Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff reported on the appointment of a twenty-four-year-old, Sebastian Kurz, to the important position of assistant to the new interior minister. One of Mr. Kurz’ principal responsibilities is “integration” — that is, the attempt to somehow shoehorn all those Muslim immigrants into Austrian society without violating the strict tenets of Multiculturalism.

Sebastian Kurz is Elisabeth’s former student, so she knows him better than do most Austrians. After Elisabeth’s less-than-flattering piece was published here, some of our commenters cautioned us not to judge the man simply because of his youth, but to wait and see if he could handle the job.

Three months have passed, and there is still no sign that any “integration” — or, God forbid, “assimilation” — is ever going to take place in Modern Multicultural Austria. Our Austrian correspondent Zam sends a translation of the latest news on Sebastian Kurz and the progress of “integration”. The translator includes this explanatory note concerning the proposed forcible mixture of culture-enrichers with indigenous Austrians:

I don’t normally have the patience (and skill) to translate articles from the newspapers in our beloved multiracial Austria, but this one seemed so utterly preposterous that I had to do it. It’s a shortened version of the whole article, but it speaks volumes about the thinking of the newly established State Secretary for Integration in Austria, Sebastian Kurz.

Of course, the “mixture” as proposed in this context means that Turkish families are planted in the midst of the few Austrian ones who still have claims on the public utility, and we all know what the effect will be: bullying and harassment.

His translation from Die Presse:

Integration: Lack of population “intermixture”

Vienna. The less fancy paraphrase is: “formation of ghettoes”. 80% of migrants reside in 10% of Austria’s communes, predominantly in the big cities — mostly in flats owned by the public utility. Endemic difficulties within this are widely known: there is a lack of necessary “intermixture” of the population, finds the expert council on integration. It therefore suggests the establishment of a “committee for housing space” that would look after a balanced allocation.

It is one of twenty suggestions from the report on integration, which was presented on Wednesday by state secretary Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) and the chairman of the expert council on integration, Heinz Fassmann. […]

There’s no timeline yet for the measure, says Kurz. “We will work step by step on the implementation”.

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff has more to say on the same topic:

Sebastian Kurz, the new star in the current Austrian ruling elite, has been busy listening to everyone on the street and in the NGO world explain their ideas on integration matters. One group he didn’t seek out was the Wiener Akademikerbund — naturally, one might say, since the WAB has the most experience and the best ideas.

So it is not surprising that I, as one of Sebastian’s former teachers, have remained silent and listened and watched Sebastian. The more I watched and listened, the more dismayed I became. And the more I felt like exploding one morning last week when I read about the ideas presented by Sebastian and “integration” experts. My response was to send the new minister an email.

Needless to say, I never received a reply. Why should he reply? It’s not like he cares. His salary will be paid punctually on the first of every month and he will join the chorus of ÖVP politicians lamenting yet another election loss.

Below is the text of her email, as translated by JLH:

From: ESW
Subject: It’s me — your TOEFL teacher
to: staatssekretaer@bmi.gv.at
Date: Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hello Sebastian:

I promised myself I would not comment on your agenda (except to congratulate you on the advancement of your career — which I can also do with this e-mail), but today’s article in ÖSTERREICH forces me to it. I also realize that my words can influence nothing, because the gap between the government’s agenda and those of us “down below” cannot be bridged. For a long time, I have given you that chance so many want. I have listened to you. In the same way, I studied your interviews, But today’s ÖSTERREICH — or what was in it — was the last straw. I am furious. Why? Here are my reasons:

1. Punishment for cutting class. Good. Keep it up. I even consider heavy penalties correct. The polytechnic will not prepare our students for life. A certificate or an apprenticeship is the way not to show up in the unemployment statistics (and not weigh on the public purse, i.e. the taxpayers).
2. Two years of kindergarten — that was the first outrage from my point of view. The thermometer begins to rise. Your reasoning: linguistic proficiency. My friend, the state is not responsible for making sure that children master the German language and certainly the taxpayer is not. The parents are. Who is going to pay for this year? How will it happen that children from German-speaking families will go to kindergarten involuntarily? How does that relate to the parents’ power to decide? Why not start with those who (for whatever reason, although I could mention a few for you) who absolutely forbid their children to learn German? Because that is how it is.
3. “School for Adults”: Good idea, onward!
4. No parallel societies: offenses against domestic law! Don’t make me laugh, my dear Sebastian! But it hasn’t been a laughing matter for a long time. In the first place, by saying this, you admit that these parallel societies exist. That wasn’t always true. It was always denied, especially by the Viennese Socialists. Have you asked yourself why there are all these (criminal) offenses? And by whom? Is it all those Filipinos or Chinese? Or maybe the biggest group of immigrants — the Germans? Or the Poles? I don’t think so.
5. More contact with the (Muslim) associations: All I need is to hear the words “intercultural dialogue”! Please tell me what we will get from something that hasn’t worked for decades. Exchange between immigrants and “old Austrians” in schools and organizations — stop me before I throw up, my dear Sebastian! I want no contact with people whose ideology and faith means having to kill non-Muslims; separating men and women; claiming men and women are not equal; demanding the stoning of women (already accomplished in France). With an ideology which has 200 calls for killing. You know what I mean. Or perhaps not? I’ll be damned if I let the state tell me with whom I have to have regular contact and “exchange.” The same is true for my daughter, for whom I, not the state, am responsible.
6. No ghettoes: They are already here! And they are not populated by Filipinos and Germans. You know what I mean. Or not?
7. Imams from Austria: they are trained in Austria. Thank you for the advice, Sebastian and panel of experts. In Austria and at the taxpayers’ expense, they are trained so they can preach “Kill the infidels wherever you find them.” That is one example out of 200! You don’t believe me? Have you read the Koran? No? Not satisfactory — sit down!
8. Preach in German: see above. Will “Kill the infidels” sound better when preached in German?
9. More dialogue. That means more tax money squandered. “Dialogue with Islam!” What is there to talk about if Islam only makes demands and calls for the death of the infidels — that is, you and me!

In conclusion, my dear Sebastian, I cannot believe that I have to be so worked up at seven in the morning on a beautiful summer day. How many more millions are we going to throw away on the (non-Filipino, non-German) immigrants? That is my money and my daughter’s money that is being wasted.

Did you read Mein Kampf in school? Yes? Then read the Koran. If you get nothing from my words here and think, this crazy woman (as if I care), at least read the Koran. It will be worth your while. As a taxpayer, I expect that from you.

Good luck,

Your deeply disappointed TOEFL teacher.

Maria Stückler, a university professor and an anti-jihad activist, was copied on the same email. Her reply provides an additional take on the new minister’s ideas (also translated by JLH):

From: Maria Stückler
Subject: Re: It’s me, Your TOEFL teacher
To: E.S.W.
Date: July 6, 2011

The entire litany reveals a political failure of the first order:

1. Learning German

And that, after a good forty years of immigration (which has not been called that for a long time).

Doesn’t anyone wonder what people are doing in Austria, who aren’t even prepared to learn the language? There are only two answers to that:

To plunder or conquer the natives.

Aside from that, the refusal to learn the language of the country is naked racism — it is clear that they want nothing to do with the local people.

2. Training of imams in Austria and preaching in German

It does not matter whether the imams are trained in Austria or not, whether they preach in German or not. Imams can always and only preach the Koran, it will not change because of these measures. The only result will be heavier costs for us. But to know that, our “representatives” have to read the Koran, and not act like the proverbial three monkeys.

3. Intercultural dialogue

Just the fact that policy required forty years to make these self-evident demands reveals the whole problem with the decades-long dialogue industry.

It is not dialogue we need, but strict demands oriented to the interests of the native population.

And whoever does not fulfill them must be deported.

The prime function of the state is not serving foreigners, but guaranteeing the internal and external security of its own people, who are, nominally anyway, the sovereign power. To this central task of the state, everything else — especially immigration policy — must be subordinated.

With warm greetings,

17 thoughts on ““Integration”, “Intercultural Dialogue”, and the Failure of the Austrian State

  1. I’m grateful for this. I skimmed Die Presse the other day only long enough to see signs of hope in what appeared to be at least a recognition of the problem, but the proposed solution seems a sadly wasted opportunity. I don’t see how 2 years of kindergarten is a solution to toddlers who don’t speak German. When I was in primary school, we routinely had children coming off the boat from Italy and Greece who soon mastered English–and with no help from home apart, I imagine, from the right attitude. The schools can do a lot if the parents urge their children to co-operate.

  2. Imagine – immigrants, and lots of them, in the heart of the Austrian mountains… what a wonderful addition to those idyllic mountain towns – and what a great gift for the Austrian tourist industry!!

  3. btw, I was an immigrant to England aged 7, without speaking almost a word of English… For around a year, I was behind everyone in my age group, so didn’t advance to the next class. But after that my English caught up. No 2 years of kindergarten required.

  4. It’s automatic promotion these days, English or no English. But I agree–lots of the NESB children at my primary school did really well by the end of it.

  5. The authorities are trying to figure out “how” to integrate foreigners, but they haven’t explained why foreigners should integrate. The reason is, “because we say so,” there is no other reason.

    So, the way to defeat this is to force them to discuss the real issue, why do they want foreigners to assimilate.

    At the risk of using a horrible cliche, people who want foreigners to assimilate and integrate are actual racists. Why is integration a racist concept? In effect, it says to the foreigner that their cultural identity is wrong and should be eradicated. This is true racism and genocide.

    There is nothing wrong with being Turkish, taking pride in that, holding on to your language and culture and yes, religion. What is causing the problem is Western progressive governments’ unconscious racism, in refusing to let Turks be Turks.

    If everyone can simply agree with Turks and other foreigners, that their culture is fine the way it is, and Austrian culture is fine the way it is, and how can we ensure that the two are forever separate, the problem is solved. (Both sides will end up agreeing that it involves free bus tickets and investment in Turkey.)

  6. @latté island:

    Is this actually irony and I am lacking in the percipience to realise it?

    As an ‘immigrant’ to Austria, I retain my culture – at home; in public i.e. at work, I speak German of course, I wear clothes appropriate to my employment, I eat at table and do not expect to leave my work every few hours for a ‘cultural’ idiosyncrasy.
    What is expected is not that anyone’s culture is “eradicated”, merely relegated to their private sphere, where it actually belongs, and not forced down everyone else’s throats.
    In school, the native culture must dominate, since the assumption must be that people moved here because they actually prefer this country to the one they left behind (as in my case).
    I chose to live here!
    I did not choose to live in Turkey.
    I did not choose to live in Saudi.
    I wished my children to go to an Austrian school, not a madrassa. I am able to indulge my culture at home, in the house I purchased after working for 20 years here in Austria. I am self-reliant because nobody ever pretended that as an immigrant I would be unable to live here and retain my autonomy. Your rubbish about racism is insulting to all of us who do not have Kuturelle Vereine telling us what the State owes us (i.e. nothing) and people like you calling racist every time someone is expected to show her face or a man has to work on Friday.

    “to let Turks be Turks.” of course, but then being a Turk does not entitle one to any special treatment, concessions or tax-paid privileges. If you wish to be a Turk in Austria, fine, but then explain why I, as a tax payer, should finance your Turkishness? send your children back to Turkey to become Turks, do not expect us to help your children retain their Turkishness in our Austrian schools!

  7. gsw, no irony on my part, but I wish you would simply be curious about what I’m trying to say, and ask for further clarification, instead of reacting with anger, and interpreting my comment as if it were something else entirely.

    This type of partisan reading actually prevents us all from hearing anything new, or slightly different, because the reflex is to place it in a slot of friend or enemy.

    If you yourself are an assimilated immigrant, fantastic. As I’ve said many times, a healthy culture can always find room for the outstanding immigrant. It’s only the wholesale importation of anything that moves, that becomes a problem.

    My previous comment only referred to the generic immigrant, not to people like you, who will be an asset anywhere.

    Back to explaining my original comment: briefly, most 3d world immigrants don’t want to be Europeans or Americans, and they are right! No one should expect them to prefer another culture. They should leave, we should help them leave in a nice way.

    I used to resent people speaking Spanish in public. Then I realized, if I ever move to Israel, I will speak English in public. I will never be anything but culturally American, regardless of where I live. So it is naive and cruel, and racist, to expect Turks to stop being Turks, even in public. Do you see the difference? My comment can’t possibly be conflated with the agenda of someone like Kurz.

  8. latté –

    I’m afraid that what you say is not new.

    “if I ever move to Israel, I will speak English in public. [..] So it is naive and cruel, and racist, to expect Turks to stop being Turks, even in public.”

    So let’s see, if you’d come to say.. Holland, and we’d expect you to learn and use the Dutch language a.s.a.p. if it were your genuine intention to build a future over here, then me and my countrymen would be “racists”?

    That aspect of your otherwise agreeable comment is not new at all, I’m sorry to say.

    Kind regs from Amsterdam,

  9. Elizabeth –

    To paraphrase an old Feminist trope:

    “Europe needs Muslims like a Fish needs a Bicycle.”

    Dr. Shalit

  10. latté island: At the risk of using a horrible cliche, people who want foreigners to assimilate and integrate are actual racists. Why is integration a racist concept? In effect, it says to the foreigner that their cultural identity is wrong and should be eradicated. This is true racism and genocide.

    When someone immigrates to an entirely different culture it is a frank admission that their new location is superior to the one they left.

    Adoption of that new culture is the only intellectually honest response to a country which welcomes such immigrants. As a counterexample, Islamic slaves are not expected to adopt Islam solely due to circumstances.

    Muslims who come to the West either do so out of a sincere desire to better their lives or are engaging in seditious colonization. They cannot have it both ways no matter how much they whinge and squawk to the contrary.

    Why move to a totally alien and contrary culture if you have absolutely no intention of assimilating? It is a monumental hubris to think that you will bend that new culture to your own will. Anyone who thinks like that is an enemy of the state and deserves the punishment traditionally reserved for such malefactors.

  11. “Did you read Mein Kampf in school? Yes? Then read the Koran.”

    I reckon this to mean that young Austrians are mandated to read Mein Kampf at school. How refreshing.

    In other places, Mein Kampf is banned, but you’re supposed to hate what’s inside. And constantly pretend that it’s equivalent to middle-of-the road contemporary conservative politics.

  12. I’m surprised some people didn’t understand, so I’ll say it more plainly.

    I want foreigners to LEAVE, not assimilate. It is unrealistic to expect adults to learn a new language and use it all the time. After a certain age, your first language is the only one you can really use, the rest is restaurant and post office language. Denying this and making people wrong for not being especially gifted in being able to assimilate as adults is frivolous, not helpful.

    Where I live, we have many Mexican immigrants, and their children speak perfect English. None of these people are Americans, regardless of how good their English is, and how hard some of them work. They should all LEAVE, not assimilate.

    If Mexicans become Americans, and if Muslims become European, America and Europe will no longer exist. In other words, this talk of integration is a big lie, and when Kurz and people like him talk about integration, it is only to prevent everyone from talking about deportation.

    Clear enough? As for my mentioning racism, I do think it is racist to think Turks should pretend to be Austrian. Austrians are Nordic, maybe a bit of other things, but they are very white people. Turks are more or less white, but they don’t look like Austrians. In other words, people who want Turks to disappear into Austrian-ness are advocating a kind of soft genocide.

    And since there are a lot more Turks, and they breed faster than Austrians, the genocide is mutual, the two groups become one and what’s left…some people who look European but aren’t all that smart. That is exactly what Kurz and his handlers want.

  13. latté island: After a certain age, your first language is the only one you can really use, the rest is restaurant and post office language.

    Please explain how my mother’s parents both learned to be quite fluent in English upon arriving here from Copenhagen after WWII. My Danish grandfather went on to head the foreign currency department for Bank of America, so his English had to be at more than just a “restaurant” or “post office” level.

  14. latté island: In other words, people who want Turks to disappear into Austrian-ness are advocating a kind of soft genocide.

    Then why are so many Muslims that have come to the West “soft genocide”-ing themselves? Erdoğan said it himself, “assimilation is a crime against humanity”. So why are all of these Muslims going where it is important that they assimilate? That is, unless they have no intention of assimilating and are here to drive jihad. SURPRISE!

    At least we agree about repatriating these people, whenever possible, to their original native lands. Clearly, Multiculturalism, is one of Liberalism’s most spectacular failures since Soviet Communism.

  15. Zenster, I think you’re not understanding what I’m saying. Maybe you think I’ve gone over to the progressives, and you’re trying to push back.

    No, let me clarify. I’m just trying to get people to make arguments based on reality, not the official ideology that we’ve all been relying on too much since 9/11. Some of these ideas aren’t sustainable, so we should stop banging on them.

    Of course the West is superior, and that’s why the Muslims and other foreigners come here. But seriously, do you want everyone in the world to come here and assimilate? As a fellow Californian, surely you must know many of these assimilated people. Do you want all Americans to be like these people in the future? That’s the wages of integration, and I want people to use very careful language about this issue, and understand that, while some outstanding immigrants can become real Americans or Austrians, the majority can’t and shouldn’t.

    Even though I have partly framed my argument by also looking at things from the immigrants’ point of view, why not? The best way to defeat or divorce yourself from incompatible people is to first, understand them. From the point of view of most immigrants, they are Turks, Muslims, or whatever, and that’s fine, they really don’t want to be anything else. This is reality, they’re right about this, and the neocon model is wrong and bad for most people.

    Your family is gifted enough to learn new languages well. Surely you can’t expect everyone to be as smart as your family. The reality for most people is closer to my family. My grandmother and her friends knew some basic English. They spoke Yiddish for their entire lives, in the Bronx. They were good people, no one should find fault with them for not being as smart as your family.

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