Integration Debate The German National Anthem in Turkish?

A German politician has triggered a debate by calling for an official Turkish translation of the German national anthem to symbolize how multicultural Germany has become.  But conservatives worry it would send the wrong signal about integration.

Somehow it's hard to imagine many of Germany's 2.6 million Turks, even the 840,000 of them with German passports, singing "Unity, Justice and Freedom for the German Fatherland" during the World Cup this summer, even if they get the lyrics in Turkish.

But a politician has stoked a debate by calling for an official Turkish translation of the third verse of the song -- the only verse sung on official occasions because the others, including the first one starting "Deutschland, Deutschland Über Alles" and the second one ending "German Women, German Loyalty, German Wine and German Song", are deemed outdated, subject to misinterpretation, and a bit too fervent. 

A Turkish version, he said, could demonstrate how multicultural German society has become. "I would see it as a sign of integration if citizens of Turkish descent could sing the third verse in Turkish," Hans-Christian Ströbele, a member of parliament for the opposition Greens party, told B.Z. newspaper. "It would symbolize the wide array of languages spoken in Germany."

Sibylle Laurischk, integration affairs spokeswoman for the opposition liberal Free Democrats agreed, saying: "It would be an interesting opportunity for people of different origins and speaking different languages to understand our German culture."

Spanish Star-Spangled Banner

The idea echos last week's controversial debut of a Spanish version of the US national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," on some US radio stations in support of millions of illegal immigrants protesting for legal rights .

The move was criticized by President George W. Bush who said: "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English and I think people who want to be citizens of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

A leading member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, deputy parliamentary floor leader Wolfgang Bosbach, dismissed the idea of a Turkish version of the "Deutschlandlied" ("Germany Song"). "The German national anthem in Turkish would be the opposite of integration," he told B.Z. "Learning to speak and write the German language is the key qualification. So if we were to offer the German hymn in Turkish, it would give the wrong signal for all immigrants living here."

Integration has been a hot topic in Germany in recent weeks following reports of falling education standards at schools with high proportions of immigrant children.

cro/bz/reuters

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