Turkish president urges Germany to help immigrants integrate

Abdullah Gül warns politicians not to exploit integration issue for their own gain, during state visit by German president

Kate Connolly in Berlin

Abdullah Gul and Christian Wulff
The Turkish president, Abdullah Gül, right, with his German counterpart, Christian Wulff, in Ankara. Photograph: Rainer Jensen/EPA

Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gül, has warned German politicians not to exploit the topic of integration for their own gain, urging them instead to assist Turks – Germany’s largest ethnic minority – to assimilate more easily.
“Instead of using the issue of integration politically, everyone must help reach a solution,” he said today.
Gül’s comments came during a state visit to Ankara by the German president, Christian Wulff, who had earlier sought to quell the heated integration debate in Germany by saying he thought it was wrong to “blanket judge” immigrants.
Wulff’s visit – the first by a German head of state to Turkey for a decade – comes days after the chancellor, Angela Merkel, declared that multiculturalism in Germany had “utterly failed” and one of her closest political allies, Horst Seehofer, said immigration from “alien cultures” should end.
The remarks have been widely interpreted in Istanbul as a sweeping condemnation of all German Turks and have raised fears of growing anti-Turkish sentiment in Germany.
Wulff, who is set to become the first German president to address the Turkish parliament, told the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet that it was wrong to condemn any group en masse.
“I consider it wrong to claim that a whole group cannot and does not want to integrate,” he said. “I am against any blanket judgement.” At the same time he urged Turks to learn German and to recognise the constitution if they wanted to live and work in Germany.
Earlier this month in a speech that caused a stir particularly amongst his fellow conservatives, Wulff said that Islam was “now part of Germany”.
But the debate in Germany – which kicked off this summer when a former board member of the Bundesbank published a book blaming the high birthrate among Turks and Arabs for “dumbing down” the German population – has caused alarm in Turkey.
Bekir Alboga, from Ditib, a state-run Turkish organisation which operates mosques in Germany, said he feared Turks were becoming increasingly vulnerable to persecution.
“Antisemitism is being replaced by Islamophobia,” he told Hürriyet. “It is shocking that anti-Islamic feelings are growing in Germany despite all the government’s efforts to solve the integration problems.”
Kenan Kolat, the chairman of the Turkish community in Germany, said: “The most dangerous thing is that racism in Germany is changing from being the viewpoint of Nazis to being racism with a tie … a middle-class racism.”

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