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

Turkish-German writer Zafer Senocak reflects on the strength of Turkish identity in Germany and suggests ways to make the Federal Republic more hospitable to immigrants. He also encourages new citizens to move away from (pro-Turkish) nationalism in order to become more open to German values and customs.

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But the Heart Still Beats Turkish

Nowhere do Turks feel closer to their new German homeland than in Berlin. Here in the city on the Spree you can eat döner kebab* to your heart’s content and sample a taste of the Turkish lifestyle as well. Nonetheless, Turks in Germany are still not truly accepted. The German-Turkish elective affinity continues to suffer from a lack of intercultural competence. A programmatic look at migration.

Where do Turks in Germany feel at home today? There is no single answer to this question. Of the two million Turks in Germany, about 200,000 have become naturalized German citizens by now. This number will double, perhaps even triple, in the coming years.

But for many, a German passport is nothing more than a document pulled from one’s pocket at the border. According to a Chinese proverb, “patriotism is the love of the good things we ate in our childhood.” German cuisine hasn’t had it easy alongside its Turkish counterpart. In their hearts, most Turks in Germany – even in the third generation – remain Turks.

Even after forty years of continuous immigration, Germany still clings to the illusion that it’s not an immigration country, that the multicultural society is a condition that one can magically vanish with a few pithy slogans. Politicians have failed to develop mechanisms to shape the immigration process in a way that is acceptable to the majority of Germans.

People are often left alone when it comes to dealing with the effects of immigration. This situation promotes xenophobia, nourishes irrational fears and prejudice. The kind of consciousness-raising work that would make the phenomenon of immigration perceptible as a German reality is missing from the cultural sphere. German theater, German film and literature do not adequately reflect the changes that have been brought about by the presence of millions of people of foreign descent in Germany. Immigrants have not yet become part of German culture.

Germans and Turks in Germany have come closer to each other than people think. All the problems that are currently associated with the failure of multicultural society have to do with this closeness and with the realization that this closeness is not necessarily accompanied by the disappearance and assimilation of all that is foreign.

Here in Berlin the number of applications for naturalization is particularly high. And nowhere do Turks feel closer to their new German homeland than in Berlin. They experienced many of this city’s historic hours, helped shaped the city, supported it.

* Turkish fast food made of lamb, beef, or chicken, roasted on a spit – eds.

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