Merkel on Failed German Multiculturalism: Other Countries Should Listen Up

By the Monitor's Board | The Christian Science Monitor, October 18, 2010 | Go to article overview

Merkel on Failed German Multiculturalism: Other Countries Should Listen Up


the Monitor's Board, The Christian Science Monitor


German leader Angela Merkel bluntly says the 40-year experiment to integrate Turks and Germans has failed. But she's not abandoning the idea of assimilating immigrants in Germany. And neither should other countries, including the United States.

What boosted the story of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the top of Google News early this week was her frank admission that multiculturalism has failed in Europe's most populous country. Specifically, she was talking about the integration of Muslim Turks into German society - a failure with a 40-year history.

But another, equally important part of her remarks needs highlighting - not just in Germany, but also in the United States and other countries struggling with immigration issues. Her point was not to give up on integration, but to try to figure out how to better assimilate immigrants.

"The question is how we deal with this question," Ms. Merkel said, in talking about Islam to a group of young German conservatives over the weekend. "Integration is a central issue because the number of young people in this country with an immigrant background is increasing, not decreasing."

In Germany, as in other developed countries, an aging population requires immigrants for economic survival. For reasons of national prosperity, social cohesion, and something as idealistic as advancing the community of mankind, immigrants must eventually become part of the seamless fabric of their new home country - different colors but the same cloth.

That's not the case in Germany - and elsewhere. The Turkish community, first invited in 1961 to Deutschland as factory guest workers, lives largely apart in separate enclaves.

About 4 million Turks reside in Germany - the largest non-German immigrant community - but many of them haven't mastered the German language, have low skills in a high-skill economy, and rely on the welfare system for support.

A third of Germans believe that foreigners "come to abuse the welfare state," and that Germany is in danger of being "overrun" by immigrants. This is according to a recent survey by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, an arm of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party. …

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