Faruk Sen, Germany's leading expert on Turkish life in Europe, has resigned from the Essen Center for Turkish Studies in the wake of controversy over an article arguing that Turks were "Europe's new Jews."
Sen, 60, was suspended by the Center's board after his remarks were reported by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in June. He responded with threats of a lawsuit, and the current arrangement -- a resignation effective at the end of 2008 -- appears to be a compromise.
Through the end of his contract he's free to work in the Turkish city of Izmir, where he will help found a German-Turkish university.
The Center in Essen is run with public money from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Sen has directed it since its foundation in 1985. Its board argued that Sen's article contributed to racial friction in Germany, rather than integration -- but even Jewish leaders have jumped to Sen's defense.
Just Wrong for Germany?
Though his article, "Europe's New Jews" -- which ran on May 19 in a Turkish financial paper called Referans -- did not compare the plight of Turks directly to the Holocaust, it did provoke strong criticism.
"Five million two hundred thousand Turks live in Europe, which once attempted to rid itself of Jews through acts of extreme horror," he wrote. "They (the Turks) have become the new Jews of Europe. Even though our people, who have been living in Central and Western Europe for 47 years now, have generated 125,000 businessees that bring in a total sales of €45 billion, they suffer discrimination and exclusion just as the Jews did -- though to a different degree and with different outward appearances."
Sen later said his remarks were inappropriate for a German audience. He apologized to senior Jewish representatives in Germany, who not only accepted the apology but supported him.
Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told leaders in North Rhine-Westphalia last June that Sen had always been a friend to the Jewish community.
"He is neither a Holocaust relativizer nor an anti-Semite," Kramer wrote in a letter to the state's minister of integration, who sat on the center's board of directors. Sen's firing, Kramer wrote, was "senseless."
But Sen admitted to playing two roles as a spokesman for Turks. For Germans he was an expert on Turkey; in Turkey he was a champion for emigrants' rights. A journalism scholar in Dortmund, Daniel Müller, told SPIEGEL ONLINE in June that Sen "instrumentalized" the German and Turkish media in different ways.
"I wrote the article for Turks in Turkey," Sen told the Süddeutsche Zeitung in June. "In Germany I would never have put it that way."