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Archive for the category “Allgemein”

Politicians Need to Draw the Line With Muslims

Integration policy is chiefly a policy for Turkish Muslims. Or have we ever had a Vietnamese integration politician? Or have Hindus in Germany ever demanded a Hindu holiday?

Deutsche-Fahne-neben-Moschee

A picture of harmony, not a picture of harmony: still life with a flag in front of a Swabian mosque. Photo: picture alliance / Frank Rumpenh 

I had a glimmer of hope recently as I read in the newspaper that Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière sought to make wholesale changes to the Islam Conference, which has proved grueling and unfruitful.

Finally, I thought, finally a minister who asks what many others—including myself—have long asked: Why just an Islam Conference? Why not a conference for a Hindus, Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox? Why not a Polish, Vietnamese, or Africa Conference?

Finally a conference for all immigrants, where Vietnamese and Polish immigrants can explain to Turkish immigrants how integrating their children in the school system works and why they haven’t had any need for their own conference or similar things.

But it was clear just hours later that the representatives of Ditib and other Turkish Muslim associations had understood Maizière much better than I had. The result dashed my tentative hopes and left me unnerved and perplexed

Yet another catalog of demands

Maizière’s vague announcement encouraged the Kolats, Kizilkayas and other Muslim spokesmen to submit a catalog of demands to the minister. The catalog is one they apparently hold ready for every auspicious opportunity. It calls for a Muslim holiday, chaplains in the military and prisons (there especially), hospitals, cemeteries, exclusive control of the associations in the advisory boards for Islamic religious education and, according to a demand by Ditib spokesman Bekir Alboga, “positive remarks by politicians” in order to improve “public opinion” of Islam in Germany.

Let’s imagine that I demanded German literary critics make positive remarks about my books in order to improve public opinion about my work. “Write better books” might be the reply of some critics. But they would probably just deem me to be insane.

Ditib, the organization that Bekir Alboga speaks for, is the German representative of the Turkish religious authority, Diyanet, which is directly controlled by the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. And apparently they are attempting to succeed in Germany where they are encountering resistance in Turkey.

15 million citizens with immigrant backgrounds live in Germany. 4.5 million are Muslims, three million of which are Turkish. How many Muslims actually feel represented by their religious associations is not clear.

Why a Muslim holiday for everyone?

But even if they all were, they would only make up 5% of the German population. That means 95% of the population would have to observe a holiday that they have no traditional or religious connection to.

This demand alone appears to me absurd. Complete religious freedom is guaranteed in Germany. Believers of every faith are entitled to time off during religious holidays.

I’ve asked myself for a long time how Muslim associations manage to regularly outrage the entire republic by means of their absurd demands, leaving the impression that we already in fact live in a semi-Islamic state. One whose secular constitution is to be slowly buried by the religious demands of Muslims.

Veiled teachers, prayer rooms in schools, Burkinis in public swimming pools—if Muslim officials had their way, public life in Germany would, in the name of 5% of the population, continue to change until it accorded with Islamic requirements. I sincerely hope that at least half the population of German Muslims wants that as little as I do.

Politicians and their conciliatory tone

What I understand least of all is why German politicians speak with Muslim representatives in this conciliatory tone. It’s as if they had just completed a de-escalation course conducted by the Neukölln police department*. They are the elected representatives of all Germans and are obligated to defend the secular principles of the state in a clear and unmistakable fashion.

If the religious requirements of Muslims collide with the constitutional principle of equality as set out in the German Basic Law, then we should follow the proposal outlined by Egyptian-German writer Hamed Abdel Samad. He argues that the privileges enjoyed by Christians need to be curtailed where possible in order to stave off the push being made by Islam in public life.

It is an illusion to believe the problems associated with Islam can be solved in a German context alone. Devout Muslims see themselves as a worldwide community, as an ummah, whose conflicts and battles also extend into the German classroom.

Turkish, Iranian, Palestinian

The hope of preserving the peace by allowing hard-earned values to be hollowed out is as illusory as the lauded peace of the “Miracle of Marxloh” **.

Politicians in every party elect to take a tolerant course instead of drawing a clear line when it comes to the religious demands of one part of the population. They do this by appointing a Muslim man, or more preferably a Muslim woman whenever possible, to every integration policy post that opens up.

Why not a Vietnamese woman or a Polish man, a Russian or Bulgarian whose religious affiliation will not be especially highlighted? Is integration policy mainly a policy for Muslims, Turks in particular, or does it include the other ten million citizens with migrant backgrounds?

Aydan Özoguz, Minister of State for Integration since December 2013, complained shortly after assuming office that Germans knew too little about Islam and the Islam Conference. Following that, she demanded the abolishment of the law governing dual citizenship—”no ifs ands or buts”.

It is imperative to protect the German Basic Law

The verb “integrate” has both a reflexive and non-reflexive meaning: one can integrate something or someone, and one can integrate oneself.

A minister for integration should consider both meanings of that word in formulating her policies. Otherwise, there is the danger of political patronage and of ignoring the interests of the country as a whole.

The task of integration in German society and politics is to clear away the obstacles faced by people from other cultures and countries, to open doors to schools and universities and to guarantee freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

The task of immigrants is to accept these offers and to observe the Basic Law, which is also to say, the secular identity of the country. And it means that they integrate themselves—as Muslims, atheists, orthodox, Hindus, Jews, Catholics, Protestants—each in their own way.

* Neukölln is a district in Berlin with a large Turkish population and a high crime rate

** The largest mosque in Germany was opened in Duisburg-Marxloh in 2008

By Monika Maron

Monika Maron is a novelist living in Berlin. Her most recent book is Zwischenspiel (Interlude).

Published in Die Welt on February 2, 2014.

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They Don’t Call It Work

On the job at home. The care worker revolution strives to elevate the significance of caring work wherever it’s done.

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Charité Hospital staff flashmobbing on at Alexanderplatz, Berlin (10.08.2013). Photo:verdi@Charité-Blog

More hospitals are being privatized in Germany nowadays than in any other country. For a long time hospitals were places where people were treated for illnesses and injuries and the costs were publicly financed. But the introduction of the “patient flat rate” in 2004 has turned hospitals into businesses. Profit is generated by undercutting the costs of these flat rates, that is, by treating the highest number of patients with profitable diagnoses at the lowest possible cost. The number of patients has increased by 5.8% since 2000, while hospital staffs are now 10% smaller. The large trade union ver.di claims that German clinics have a staff shortage of 162,000 employees.

Nurses, nurses aides and orderlies at the Charité hospital in Berlin have been fighting for a minimum staff level for months. They use flash mobbing tactics during each round of negotiations, collapsing exhausted on the grass of the interior courtyard of the clinic. Their signs read: “I’m sick, because I have to care for too many patients.”

The message was the same at the Blockupy protests this past May in Frankfurt, where protesters unfurled a new approach intended to place the neglected care work sector at the center of a social movement. A purple banner bearing the slogan “Care Revolution” was carried through the streets. Other signs read, “When was the last time you had an hour for yourself?” and, “Care deserves a fair share.” The message is that cutbacks in essential public services have wider implications beyond staff reductions in clinics.

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Charité Hospital staff flashmobbing at Alexanderplatz, Berlin (10.08.2013). Photo:verdi@Charité-Blog

Discriminatory system

A look at the family also makes this evident. The capitalist approach has never really addressed the basic care people need beyond what they receive in hospitals and senior homes, other than by ensuring that care is accomplished through a gender-marked division of labor. Under Fordism, men manned the machines while women worked at home, cooking, cleaning, looking after children and taking care of the elderly. This care work does not yield profits and thus has no value in the system, nor do the people doing it.

The discrimination against women resulting from this division of labor is embedded deeply in our economic system. Undervaluing female-encoded work hasn’t changed much in past decades. The Federal Statistical Office’s most recent figures reveal that in Germany 1.7 times more unpaid “reproduction work” work is done than wage work. Women do 31 hours of unpaid work per week. If tasks like cutting the grass and washing the car are included, then men do 19 hours of unpaid work, but women still do 80% of the care work.

The second women’s movement drew attention to the importance of care work. “They call it love. We call it unpaid work,” wrote the Italian feminist Silvia Federici in 1975. She has been touring the world again in recent years, calling on the next generation to stage a “revolt from the kitchen,” to quote the title of a book of her most important essays that was republished in German.

In the meantime, an increasing number of publications and conferences are addressing the issues of the second women’s movement, issues fundamental to our economy. In the end, care work is what ensures well-being and provides the market with a labor force. And is supported by an ideology that has always glorified the family as a refuge insulated from market forces.

More women pursue careers these days (estimated between 15% and 20%) and largely enjoy the same opportunities afforded their male counterparts. Women can get the same jobs and the same salary but successfully negotiating the work world doesn’t automatically translate into more independence. On the contrary, it means a longer work day. Female workers make up over 60% of those employed in low-wage jobs. And after work there are chores and kids at home to take care of, if not a mother-in-law. Burn out is not the plight of the over ambitious manager. Low earners are three times more likely to suffer from the effects of over work. And there are twice as many women in this group as men.

Separating work and family

Both the conservative Christian Democrats and their center-left coalition partners, the Social Democrats, would like to ignore this problem. The introduction to their coalition agreement makes this clear, clearly separating “people’s accomplishments” into the spheres of “at work” and “for the family.” It is precisely during this crisis that the family is asked to compensate in areas where the community is lacking resources. And thus there is an almost systematic effort in the coalition agreement to further reduce the visibility of the family, which appears only as a sub-item under “Social cohesion”. Under “Nursing”, however, the floridly described intention is to support minimum standards for hospital staff and to elevate the perception of the nursing professions. Yet how they are going to do that is not mentioned.

Since parties are reluctant to speak about care work, others have stepped in to fill the vacuum. Occupational scientist Gabriele Winker coined the term “Care Revolution”, taking her inspiration from a newspaper article by Georg Fülberth. The latter, a political scientist, demands increased wages as well as high investment in the “youngest ones” and “golden agers.”

Winker is pleased that care work is now being talked about more openly by left-leaning men. What she says is missing is “unpaid work,” an issue that doesn’t come up in discussions about daycare centers or senior homes. Hence the Care Revolution. Winker’s point is that increasing wages and investment in education and daycare does not go far enough. She wants financial security for individual members of society. This could be moving in the direction of setting a minimum income in order to relieve the economic pressures on those doing care work privately. At the same time, social work professions must be held in greater esteem. Why should a daycare professional responsible for caring for children only receive a fraction of an engineer’s salary?

These ideas are at odds with the logic of the system. But they are resonating with more and more people. 50 groups registered for the Care Revolution Action Conference in Berlin last March, including Attac, ver.di, nursing networks, women centers and even the Grandmother Revolution of Switzerland. Paid and unpaid care workers want to draw attention to an issue that has been continually ignored despite its fundamental role in society.

By Sebastian Dörfler, published in Der Freitag (50/13) on December 12, 2013.

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