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A Turkish-German Writer on Ways to Overcome the German-Turkish Divide (August 22/23, 1998)

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Berlin Senator for Internal Affairs Jörg Schönbohm* sees the situation very differently, however. He speaks of ghettos, of districts populated mostly by foreigners and the need to “dry them out.” In these “quarters,” he says, you have the feeling you are no longer in Germany. The senator claims to support cultural diversity.

In his mind, however, a multicultural society is a form of coexistence in which cultures dissolve. Similar arguments are also used by Turkish fundamentalists who see the purity of their culture threatened in Germany.

The survival of communities in the future will depend on their intercultural competence. This is based on an emotional and intellectual ability to make room for others in one’s own home, so to speak, and to control and ward off fears associated with this sort of rearrangement. This competence is lacking in Germany.

The primary task of the intellectual and political elite in Germany must be to develop ideas and models that strengthen intercultural competence in German society.

First of all, one widespread fear needs to be dispelled: Building up intercultural competence does not lead to the collapse of communities. Accepting that other cultures have equal value does not mean abandoning one’s own.

Only he who truly knows the worth of his Own culture can negotiate with the Other. It is high time for Germans to develop more confidence in their Own culture. Confidence of this sort does not express itself in the defamation of the Other but rather in the exemplary attractiveness of one’s Own views and values.

The following is an attempt to introduce a five-step model, a kind of collection of materials on migration that can be used to design a program for a modern, open-minded Germany.

First: Acknowledge Reality
In Germany the immigration question has been dragged along for decades but never dealt with. In the meantime, it has assumed the character of a chronic inflammation that plagues anyone who feels any sort of pain. The presence of 7.5 million residents of foreign descent has created certain realities in this country, and these realities must be the departure point for any thoughts about the future.

The German nation-state will be a state with citizens of diverse heritage. An ethnically and culturally homogeneous Germany does not exist. Together with other peoples, the German people must build a modern nation whose identity is not solely defined by archaic ancestral rituals.

Second: Build Consensus
No question splits German society into two camps like that of immigration. This split in society must be overcome. Without some form of societal consensus on Germany’s multiethnic character, it will be impossible to solve a single problem that has resulted from decades of immigration.

* A conservative CDU politician – eds.

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