Nine Muslims on right-wing populism

Should I stay or should I go?

Young Muslims in Germany are feeling increasingly alienated. The AfD and the debate on Islam are reasons. But are they reasons for leaving? Dunja Ramadan spoke to nine of them

No alternative

Inas studies public administration in Berlin (photo: private)
"I am German, and I think of Germany as home. I was born and grew up here, went to school here, and now university. I think it's terrible that I should even have to consider the possibility of leaving the country, and it makes me wonder whether I belong in Germany at all," says Inas

I have given some thought to emigrating, should the political climate become unbearable. When exactly that point might come, I don't know. When I think about the options I have, my thoughts just go in circles.

I am from Palestine originally, but there is no way I can go back there. Britain used to be an option, but Brexit has made that more difficult. I also considered Canada, because it is always held up as a prime immigration country, but unfortunately I have no connection with the country at all.

I don't have many options – Inas the optionless, that's me. I am German, and I think of Germany as home. I was born and grew up here, went to school here, and now university.

I think it's terrible that I should even have to consider the possibility of leaving the country, and it makes me wonder whether I belong in Germany at all. Not everyone here has to think such thoughts, only those of us with a migration background, or those who don't look "German". (Inas, 25, studies public administration in Berlin)

 

We are a part of the whole

I began to have thoughts about maybe leaving Germany when the AfD (Alternative for Germany – right-wing nationalist, anti-immigration party) had their first successes. Today I believe that the other parties, and we ourselves as mainstream society, are responsible for their success in recent elections.

Yasir is a computer scientist in Berlin (photo: private)
"The AfD has only been successful because it provides what appear to be simple answers to complex problems. As a German Muslim, I feel shame and anger that such people can have a say in the political decision-making process," comments Yasir

The AfD has only been successful because it provides what appear to be simple answers to complex problems. Most of the other political parties have failed either to give comprehensible explanations or to come up with sensible solutions to these complex questions. As a German Muslim, I feel shame and anger that such people can have a say in the political decision-making process.On the other hand, I see gaining a stronger political voice as a major challenge for Muslims. We need to show the social majority that we, too, are part of the whole, and make them aware of what the consequences will be if Muslims are not accepted as part of Germany. We are failing to grasp the initiative in the dialogue.

Of course, in the current climate, many racists have come out of the woodwork, but they are not all racists – and it is those people I am talking about, the people whose fears can be allayed. I put my faith in the German laws and constitution to take action to counter xenophobia. (Yasir, 28, is a computer scientist in Berlin)

 

I'm staying where I am

Why should I emigrate? Just to help make the dreams of an all-white, racially pure Germany come true? I wouldn't give Petry or Seehofer the satisfaction. The presence of my body in the public sphere is my resistance, though I have to admit that every vote for the AfD makes me feel more and more like a stranger in my own country. I worry about the electoral successes of the right-wing populists.

Ozan Keskinkilic studies international relations in Berlin (photo: private)
"The CSU's policy paper on immigration is a document that openly encourages racism perpetrated in the name of a Christian-western myth that condemns black people and people of colour to the status of eternal intruders," says Ozan

Petry and her racist supporters are pushing back the limits of what is permissible and they are demonstrating just how many votes there are to be won by appealing to the right end of the political spectrum.This is what lies behind the CSU's increasing escalation of the situation with their policy paper on immigration, a document that openly encourages racism perpetrated in the name of a Christian-western myth that condemns black people and people of colour to the status of eternal intruders.

I lived in Vienna for a few years and experienced feelings of uneasiness with the rise of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO). The AfD has simply copied the FPO's success formula. If this continues, and mainstream society goes on looking for outlets for its anti-Semitism and racism, then we need hardly wonder about increasing attacks on refugees and on all those who do not have the privilege of having white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. (Ozan Keskinkilic, 27, studies international relations in Berlin)

Chaymae studies education and Islamic religion in Erlangen (photo: private)
"Sometimes I experience solidarity from people opposed to the AfD. But just the fact that I feel forced into thinking about emigrating makes me both angry and sad," admits Chaymae

Angry and sad

Sometimes I imagine leaving Germany. Usually I dream of moving to an English-speaking country, maybe to England. I have the impression from social media that there is less racism there, more tolerance. Things are really going downhill in Germany at the moment.I find it very sad that I even have to consider the idea of leaving Germany. It's my home after all and the country I feel most at home in.

In my parents' home country, Morocco, I feel more like a stranger. Sometimes I also experience solidarity from people opposed to the AfD. That's fantastic, but just the fact that I feel forced into thinking about emigrating makes me both angry and sad at the same time. (Chaymae Khelladi, 22, studies education and Islamic religion in Erlangen)

 

I'd miss pretzels and Obazda

The way the whole discussion has shifted to the right makes me ask myself why I should live in a country that treats me like an immature and potentially disturbed child. There has to be a country where all that counts is my qualifications and where other aspects of my life are left alone.

Nour is a kindergarten teacher in Munich (photo: private)
"The way the whole discussion has shifted to the right makes me ask myself why I should live in a country that treats me like an immature and potentially disturbed child," comments Nour

The success the AfD has had in elections is official confirmation that a growing number of people don't want me here.

There are several countries I could go to: Canada, Turkey or one of the Gulf States. All of them make it easy for new arrivals and would value my qualifications. I have already worked abroad. You do miss home, friends and family, and I would also miss pretzels and Obazda (Bavarian cheese spread). But I would rather be a foreigner abroad than be one in my own country. (Nour, 25, is a kindergarten teacher in Munich)

 

Homeland is like family

The fact that right-wing thinking is becoming normal is certainly worrying, but I don't want to emigrate, nor am I going to, especially now, because for me homeland is like family. In family life you experience nice things and not so nice things. And if something goes wrong, you have to roll up your sleeves and deal with it.

Mehdi studies law and runs a business in Berlin (photo: private)
"Homeland is like family. In family life you experience nice things and not so nice things. And if something goes wrong, you have to roll up your sleeves and deal with it," says Mehdi

Quite a few things are going wrong in our country at the moment and I intend to stay put and help deal with them. I wouldn't deny, however, that the public discourse of the past decade has overstepped the bounds and has had me at least considering the idea of leaving.I am astonished to see how unadulterated racism, relativised and glossed over for prime time consumption, is broadcast into our homes, published in book form, or used as a vote-catcher. The social climate is changing noticeably. Is this the kind of country I want to live in?

The revelation of the NSU scandal was the most upsetting. State institutions are failing across the board; there is a serious fracturing of confidence. And now we have the AfD represented in a couple of state parliaments – a party that was a fringe phenomenon is gradually establishing itself within the German political system. (Mehdi Chahrour, 28, studies law and runs a business in Berlin)

I don't want to be forced to emigrate

I really don't know what to think. On the one hand, when Muslim friends who wear headscarves are abused on the streets, just because of the way they look, then I can say I have very little regard for this country. When things like that happen, I would like to move somewhere else, somewhere where everybody, irrespective of colour, background or religion can live peacefully side by side.

Burcu studies communication research in Erfurt (photo: private)
"I would hope that the country I emigrated to would be one that invests in education, so that things like gratuitous feelings of national pride or superiority are not an issue. It is hard to believe that we are still fighting racism in the 21st century," comments Burcu

Maybe Canada would be a possibility. In any case, I would hope that the country I emigrated to would be one that invests in education, so that things like gratuitous feelings of national pride or superiority are not an issue. It is hard to believe that we are still fighting racism in the 21st century.

And I don't mean just the right-wing extremists; I mean the racism of the Muslim extremists too, and the racism of "foreigners". At the same time, I don't want to be forced to emigrate. I, too, am Germany. I feel that this is my home, despite my Turkish background. In the end, I think that we should all stay in the country and tackle the problem at its roots. We can't allow things to go too far. (Burcu Sargin, 24, studies communication research in Erfurt)

 

When is it enough?

Germany is my home, and home is a place where you should feel at ease. At the moment, though, I don't feel that way.

Tugba studies law in Hamburg (photo: private)
"The question is, when should I say enough is enough? When the AfD has seats in the Bundestag? When one can no longer walk the streets without fear?" asks Tugba

The current climate in Germany is frightening and it is not getting any better. Just the opposite. There are people out there who don't like me and don't want me here, just because I am a Muslim.

The country I grew up in doesn't give me the opportunities it gives to others. I want to help Germany get through this phase, so we can learn and grow as a society. The question is, when should I say enough is enough? When the AfD has seats in the Bundestag? When one can no longer walk the streets without fear? I don't know.Sometimes I think about whether I would prefer to be somewhere else, whether I would feel better elsewhere.

I could go to Turkey, perhaps, because I can speak the language. I could work there as a lawyer. Or maybe go back to university to take a master's degree. Whether or not I could live there for good is another question. Turkey has problems of its own. But at least I could live there without fear and not have to keep proving myself. (Tugba Uyanik, 24, studies law in Hamburg)

 

I see myself as a multiplier

Germany needs to have demographic diversity. If I decide to emigrate then it will be because of a job. Germans, whether they a migration background or not, should take the AfD's electoral success as motivation to spur them on, to develop a more trusting and responsible relationship towards one another. I would like to see a feeling of unity emerging that pays no regard to religion, colour or ethnic background.

Yavuz studies industrial engineering in Bochum (photo: private)
"I see myself as a multiplier, someone who can take on a political, economic and linguistic bridging function. I would be very reluctant to leave Germany at present," admits Yavuz

In countries like Singapore and Canada there is a very different sense of belonging and identity.

We need to have more communication – and that includes with AfD voters. I see myself as a multiplier, someone who can take on a political, economic and linguistic bridging function. So I would be very reluctant to leave Germany at present. (Yavuz Dogan, 26, studies industrial engineering in Bochum)

© taz 2016

 

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