Spotlight on bridge builders: Farhad DilmaghaniWorking towards a society without discrimination
It all started with a book. Namely, with Thilo Sarrazin's "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany Abolishes Itself). Published in 2010, it is one of the best-selling non-fiction books ever since the founding of the Federal Republic. All of Germany is still engaged in a debate on the issues raised by the former senator of finance for the State of Berlin regarding the alleged disintegration of society caused by immigration from Muslim countries.
Farhad Dilmaghani recalls: "Sarrazin's book broke the dam. In discussions of the book, racism became visible in the midst of society. It had of course been there all along, but now it was suddenly deemed socially acceptable." He responded by taking action: "We realised that a new wind was blowing that we had to stand up to. We wanted to take responsibility for this country. Germany is our country too. We were born and raised here. We feel at home here. That's why we need to confront this racism politically."
Every individual has multiple identities
In 2011 Dilmaghani founded the association "DeutschPlus. Initiative für eine plurale Republik" together with the social scientist Naika Foroutan, the film director Züli Aladağ and the architect Van Bo Le-Mentzel. Today, some 400 sponsors and supporters from all over Germany are affiliated with the organisation.
The name, he says, came about while brainstorming in a beer garden. The term "plus" stands for the diversity of identities that every individual displays. People are much more than just their cultural roots. Dilmaghani, for example, is not only someone of Iranian descent who does advocacy work, promoting young talent and mentoring for Deutsch Plus; he is also a husband, a chess player and an amateur photographer.
"The founders of Deutsch Plus had already managed to achieve success in culture, science or politics, but we also wanted to pass on our knowledge to the next generations. We wanted to show others how to navigate these particular political and social contexts." One of the association's main tasks is therefore to support organisations and government authorities in developing more diversity. Currently, they do not adequately reflect the make-up of society. That needs to change.