A national debate is raging in Germany over Muslim immigration. The issue is drawing attention not only to Germany's broken immigration system, which for many decades now has failed to integrate Germany's Muslim population, but also to Germany's demographic time bomb, which is significantly accelerating the pace of Muslim immigration.
The debate is also exposing deep rifts between Germany's politically correct elites, who for years have tried to silence discussion about Muslim immigration, and vast numbers of ordinary Germans, who are becoming increasingly uneasy about the social changes that are transforming Germany, largely due to the presence of millions of non-integrated Muslims in the country.
The debate over Muslim immigration is being fuelled by an explosive new book titled "Germany Does Away With Itself." The best-seller, authored by 65-year-old Thilo Sarrazin, a prominent German banker who is also a long-time member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), has broken Germany's long-standing taboo on discussing the impact of Muslim immigration by highlighting painful truths about the current state of affairs.
Apprehension about the future explains why Sarrazin's concerns over Muslim integration are resonating with the German population at large. (Sarrazin's book has topped the bestseller list on bookseller Amazon's German website since its publication in late August, and book tour dates are sold out across the country.) Polls show broad public support for Sarrazin's anger that many Muslim immigrants shut themselves off from Germany, do not speak German and do not share the German and European worldview.
According to a recent survey conducted by TNS Emnid pollsters, around 20 percent of German voters would back a hypothetical political party led by Sarrazin. Another poll conducted by the mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag shows that 89 percent of those surveyed say Sarrazin's arguments are convincing. "For them, Sarrazin is somebody who is finally saying what many are thinking," according to Emnid.
This worries the uppity guardians of German political correctness, who have tried to silence Sarrazin by getting him removed from the board of the German central bank, the Bundesbank, and expelled from the Social Democratic Party. Infuriated by Sarrazin's audacity to question the status quo of German multiculturalism, the bulk of Germany's political and media class has been working overtime to delegitimize Sarrazin as a "racial arsonist."
Excerpts from the book, which is written in a highly confrontational style, include the following:
"In every European country, due to their low participation in the labor market and high claim on state welfare benefits, Muslim migrants cost the state more than they generate in added economic value. In terms of culture and civilization, their notions of society and values are a step backwards."
"No other religion in Europe is so demanding and no other migration group depends so much on the social welfare state and is so much connected to criminality."
"Most of the cultural and economic problems [in Germany] are concentrated in a group of the five to six million immigrants from Muslim countries."
"I do not want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live in a mostly Muslim country where Turkish and Arabic are widely spoken, women wear headscarves and the day's rhythm is determined by the call of the muezzin."
"If the birthrate of migrants remains higher than that of the indigenous population, within a few generations, the migrants will take over the state and society."
"I do not want us to end up as strangers in our own land, not even on a regional basis."
"From today's perspective, the immigration of guest workers in the 1960s and 1970s was a gigantic mistake."
The roots of Germany's current problems with Muslim immigration can be traced back to October 30, 1961, with the signing of a labor recruitment agreement between West Germany and Turkey. At the time, West Germany's post-World War II economy was booming and similar treaties with Greece, Italy and Spain were insufficient to supply Germany's seemingly endless demand for labor. By the end of 1969, more than one million Turkish "guest workers" had arrived in Germany to work in the "host country's" industrial zones.
The initial idea was that the Turkish labourers would return home after a period of two years, but the so-called "rotation clause" was removed from the German-Turkish treaty in 1964, partly due to pressure from German industry, which did not want to pay the costs of constantly training new workers. The predictable result was that many Turks never returned home.
Today, the Turkish population in Germany has mushroomed to an estimated 3.5 million, and Turks now constitute the largest ethnic minority group in the country. Demographers expect that the Turkish population in Germany will increase exponentially in coming decades, largely due to a high birth rate and Germany's continuing high demand for foreign workers.
Germany's demand for foreign labor is being fuelled by a demographic crisis, in which the German population is not only ageing, but also shrinking, at a rapid clip. According to recent projections by the German Federal Statistics Office, Germany's current population of 82 million, the largest in the European Union, is set to decline by as much as 20 percent, to 65 million, over the next five decades. At the same time, 34 percent of the population will be older than 65 and 14 percent will be 80 or more by 2060, up from 20 percent and 5 percent respectively in 2009.
The twin challenges of depopulation and aging will have major consequences for the financial sustainability of Germany's cradle-to-grave social security system. For example, the number of pensioners that will have to be supported by working-age people could almost double by 2060, according to the Federal Statistics Office. While 100 people of working age between 20 and 65 had to provide the pensions for 34 retired people in 2009, they will have to generate income for between 63 and 67 pensioners in 2060.
Germany's grim demographic future will also have implications for its export-driven economy. According to the Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging, industrialized countries such as Britain and France "will overtake Germany in the future" because of their ability to combine higher birth rates with an inflow of qualified immigrants. "Germany will clearly decline as an economic power, especially in comparison to up-and-coming nations such as China and India." In fact, in 2009, Germany lost its cherished title of world export champion to China, heightening fears of a declining stature and importance globally.
All this implies that in the future, Germany will become more, not less, dependent on immigrants. And Turks will continue to be a major source of labor, considering that the birth rate among Turkish immigrants in Germany is 2.4, nearly double that of the native German population (which at 1.38 is far below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per couple). At this rate, the number of native Germans will be cut in half in around six generations, while the number of Muslim immigrants in Germany will more than quadruple.
At the same time, the German left is struggling to come to terms with the fact that many Germans simply are not buying into the political elite's postmodern vision for an Islamicized Germany. The left-wing magazine Der Spiegel, in an article titled "Why Sarrazin's Integration Demagoguery Has Many Followers," asks: "In what country are we living? After the 2006 World Cup, it seemed that Germany had become cheerful and cosmopolitan. But the popular approval of Sarrazin leads us to question whether there isn't an underlying xenophobia after all."
Elsewhere, Der Spiegel refuses to accept the fact that many ordinary Germans do not share the political opinions of the media class, and summarily declares alternative viewpoints as racist. Lamenting the broken relationship between the political and journalistic class with the rest of the country, the magazine asks: "Do citizens feel abandoned on the question of integration? Or, asked another way, does Germany have a fertile breeding ground for the kind of populist right-wing party that is already par for the course in many European countries?"
But many German media outlets (on both the political left and right) have come out in support of Sarrazin. For example, the center-left newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung agrees that Sarrazin has "addressed a problem that will remain long after the waves of outrage have subsided: the enormous integration deficit of the Muslim minority in Germany, or at least of disturbingly large parts of it."
Elsewhere, Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: "A large section of the political elite wants to send Sarrazin away to the Sahara or wherever the Saracens come from, the ones who once gave his family its name. Yet many of those distancing themselves from Sarrazin aren't using arguments. They find it all simply so distasteful. For too long Germans thought they could leave it to immigrants to decide how far to integrate themselves or whether they want to do so at all. That has led to grievances that Sarrazin has correctly described."
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: "As a martyr of freedom of opinion and a chief witness to charges made by broad swathes of the population, Sarrazin will haunt [Germany's political class] for a long time. Indignant comments from the likes of the interior minister that the problems described by Sarrazin have long been known sound like mockery in the ears of many people: if the problems have been known that long, why has so little been done to deal with them?"
The center-right Die Welt writes: "The breadth and depth of the support in opinion polls for Sarrazin's theses make clear how uneasy Germans are across the political spectrum with the current integration situation…. Thanks to Sarrazin the debate on integration has now received the prominence it deserves."