German Papers: Germanistan

With religious violence in Holland having erupted on the streets, a lively debate in Germany is unfolding on the editorial pages. "How should we deal with our Muslim minority?" is the question of the day.

It was just a matter of time before the religious strife in Holland between the Islam minority and the Christian majority crossed the border into Germany. While the violence associated with that strife has so far remained behind, German newspapers take up the discussion with zeal on Thursday and look at it from all possible angles. Indeed, the only major daily in Germany that is so far staying away from the topic is the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Perhaps the weightiest perspective of the day comes from outside of Germany. British Home Secretary David Blunkett contributes a long commentary to the financial daily Handelsblatt in which he makes an eloquent, if not entirely realistic, plea for integration. Speaking about Europe in general, he writes, "We need to develop an identity that includes integration to make it easier for new arrivals to feel a sense of welcome and belonging.... But integration does not at all mean assimilation into the dominant culture and the abandoning of one's original identity." He later explains what he means, and takes a jab at Muslim headscarf bans in both Germany and France in the process: "We (in Britain) don't feel the need to forbid the expression of one's own identity through religious symbols in public institutions."

The left leaning Tageszeitung likewise takes a look at integration of a growing Muslim population in Germany, now numbering 3.1 million, and doesn't like what it sees. Specifically, the paper focuses on last week's proposal by the government to insert a Muslim public holiday into the German calendar -- a proposal that was quickly withdrawn following heavy critiques. The paper writes that such a holiday "would have been a courageous and progressive signal. After all, Germany has, by now, an identity as a country of immigration. But institutionally, immigrants here have a long, long way to go before they are accepted."

For the conservative Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, the current discussion of how to approach the Muslim-Christian divide in Europe is one that has been suppressed for too long. "The (German) population has sensed for a long time that a negative development (within the Islamic minority in Germany) is taking place, but that it wasn't politically correct to talk about it openly."

The Financial Times Deutschland, however, does just that. It addresses what should practically be done to protect Germany from radical Muslims and so-called "preachers of hate." It is fine to have two cultures living together side-by-side, it writes. In fact, that has been the case for a long time in Europe. But "in terms of obeying the law, there can only be one society." Furthermore, the paper opines, it is the state's duty to uphold the values of the state, which means deporting imams who preach violence and protecting Muslim women from forced marriages and domestic violence.

This point of view receives backing from the conservative daily Die Welt. "A general suspicion toward all Muslims doesn't help," it warns. "Not thoughts, but criminal actions need to be prosecuted." But, the paper argues, the state also needs to observe potentially radical Muslims. A democracy has a legitimate interest in closely examining extreme statements. "Open societies have good reasons to observe their enemies more attentively."

Also on Thursday, Financial Times Deutschland prints a contribution on the European battle against terrorism from Javier Solana, future European Union foreign minister and current High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU. Solana's thesis, unfortunately coming about four-fifths of the way through the piece, is that terrorism "cannot be defeated by military means alone," and that it is important to combat all elements that contribute to terrorism including those factors that make it easy for terror groups to recruit new members.

Mostly, though, the piece outlines what the EU is currently doing to combat terror. This includes improving cooperation between the various national secret services within the EU, improving collaboration among nations in police investigations and close teamwork with European financial institutions to freeze terrorists' accounts. Solana writes that progress has been made in all of these areas and that fighting terror remains a high priority in the EU. "The EU will continue to fight terrorism with energy and resolve," he writes.

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