Der SPIEGEL) An enormous study released on Thursday on Muslims in Germany has once again triggered a widespread debate on integration. This time, however, Muslims themselves aren't the focus of debate but, rather, the Interior Ministry's handling of the report. German commentators say the minister is on his way to losing the trust of the country's Muslim population.
The study presented by the German Interior Ministry on Thursday was massive. Fully 760 pages long, the tome used interviews and media analysis to delve into the views of Muslims living in Germany -- and it contained several interesting revelations. Among them were that Muslims who hold German citizenship are overwhelmingly interested in integrating, that there is significant variance in how Muslims view the country, and that many Muslims feel they are equated with terrorism by German society as a whole.
The article about the study in the mass-circulation tabloid Bild, which leaked the results prior to its official publication, was short. It focused primarily on one of the study's myriad findings: Among Muslims between the ages of 14 and 32 who don't possess German citizenship, 24 percent expressed a significant resistance to the idea of integration.
That, too, was the finding that Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich chose to focus on in the quote he gave to Bild. "Germany respects the origins and cultural identities of its immigrants," he said. "But we do not accept the import of authoritarian, anti-democratic and fanatically religious views. Those who reject freedom and democracy have no future here."
Indignation, particularly at the one dimensional way in which the report was presented by both Bild and the interior minister, was widespread. Even the authors of the study themselves were surprised by the timing of the release and the spin it was given. Before long, politicians of all stripes -- with the exception of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, to which Friedrich belongs -- were blasting both the study and the Interior Ministry.
Even the Free Democrats, Merkel's coalition partners in Berlin, found fault with the report. "I find it surprising that the Interior Ministry has once again used taxpayer money to finance a study that creates headlines but no insights," said Serkan Tören, an integration expert for the FDP. Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, likewise of the FDP, said, "I would warn against distilling a scientific study down to mere headlines."
Still, not all is well in Germany when it comes to integration, and the study seemed to throw some light on why that is. The country's citizenship laws, one suspects, may play a substantial role. When it came to attitudes toward integration, those with German passports consistently showed a greater identification with German culture than those without.
Another factor could also be the shrillness with which Germany tends to debate immigration, integration and Muslims. The study notes that many of the 700 interviews conducted for the study took place prior to the massive integration debate triggered by Thilo Sarrazin's extremely Islam-critical book in 2010, while other interviews took place afterward. Study authors noted that there was a significant statistical variance between the two batches of interviews.
And then, of course, there is the fact that there are indeed some Muslims in Germany who tend toward radicalism and the problem should not be ignored.
German papers take a closer look at the debate on Friday.
The center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"The central problem is not the study itself … When researchers from three universities, among other places, conclude that every fourth young Muslim without a German passport doesn't want to integrate, detests the West and sometimes accepts violence as a remedy, then one must take this seriously, despite criticism of the study's methods."
"However, the timing of the study's publication is suspicious. The memorial service for the victims of the (neo-Nazi) Zwickau terror cell has barely faded into the past, and the debate over racism barely begun. And then the topic of a 'deficient will to integrate' is thrown into the mix."
"Someone who gives such an explosive study exclusively to Bild, so it can have its daily riotous headline (as was so clearly the case), is not someone who values a serious debate over better integration and security. … Instead, a negative selection was seized upon, namely, every result of the study that is allegedly not good. By doing so, Friedrich is well on his way to destroying the last remnants of respect between himself and Muslim organizations."
The Financial Times Deutschland writes:
"The reaction to the study about the integration of Muslims are too alarmist on both sides. … Please, exhale, take a deep breath and employ a bit less excitement and polemic. Once one does so, the view of the study's differentiations becomes clearer: The majority of Muslims are a normal part of German society. But about a quarter of young Muslims without German passports are poorly integrated, if one measures this by their skepticism of the West and Jews, along with their attitudes toward violence."
"Even if this group is reportedly shrinking, this raises concerns. … Anti-democratic sentiments and violent tendencies are best explained as failures in social policy. Religion is seldom the cause of radicalization. More than anything, such ideology offers uprooted youths social support and rules -- and it is the shortest path for some immigrants to reach a radical interpretation of Islam. It is therefore sensible to offer state-run Islam religion courses at schools as an alternative to problematic Koran schools."
"These measures are counteracted by debates in which immigrants are mono-thematically -- and problematically -- reduced to their Muslim identity. … This must end."
The conservative daily Die Welt writes:
"Psychologists know that people receiving bad news often react with denial. That is the only way to understand the angry cries from the integration politicians of the Greens, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Free Democrats (FDP) over the report presented by the interior minister on the willingness of young Muslims to integrate in German society."
"One could say with some goodwill that this chorus of indignation honors them, if they still acknowledge that it is bad news that almost half of the young non-German Muslims and even a quarter of young Muslims with German passports are 'unwilling' to integrate. One must really worry about those who happily take note of this news because it confirms their own resentments…."
"The good news is that 78 percent of young German Muslims and still half of the young Muslims without a German passport have a favorable view of democracy. The national mourning over the victims of neo-Nazi terrorism has given them a face. And it is these people who Germany must not disappoint, either by shutting them out or defaming them, or through tolerating Islamism. That's what it says in the report, and that is what the interior minister said. The sooner the denial phase ends and the acceptance phase begins, the better."
Left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes:
"Why doesn't the interior minister commission a study of how widespread prejudice and racist attitudes are in Germany -- and how these can be tackled? Why is he focusing on Muslims again? The answer is that -- despite the total failure of his authorities in relation to the series of murders at the hands of the neo-Nazi terror cell from Zwickau -- he evidently doesn't think that anti-democratic attitudes of non-Muslims are such a big problem. As long as it stays this way, one can't be surprised to find Muslims who don't identify with this country."
-- SPIEGEL ONLINE Staff