BERLIN – It has been more than a week since Thilo Sarrazin – an executive in Germany's central bank, a senior member of the Social Democratic Party, and a political provocateur – has been spreading racist remarks against the Muslim minority in Germany. He did so on every media platform provided him in order to promote his new book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany is doing away with itself) that was released on Monday.
Popular German tabloid Bild published selections from the book in recent weeks. In interviews held with Sarazzin in more quality newspapers n Germany, the banker came out against Islam in general and claimed that German intelligence is declining as a result of immigration. He backed up his assertions with pseudo-scientific statistics on fertility, intelligence, and labor. All of this went without any major comment.
Sarrazin's book launch. Sparking celebrity-level interest (Photo: Reuters)
However, when he claimed in an interview on Sunday that Jews carry a "particular gene" that sets them apart from all other nations, the German political establishment spoke up.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called for him to be ousted from the Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, and promised that a discussion would be held with the heads of the financial institution. Merkels called the statements "unacceptable" and said, "These are comments that only damage and don't help integration in this country, which is a national duty."
Joining Merkel in her denunciation of Sarrazin's statement, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Sarrazin "crossed the line." A long list of Christian Democratic Union party members also joined in the condemnation.
Sarrazin's own party, SPD, also did not spare him harsh criticism. The party headquarters in Berline announced on Monday that it will launch an official procedure to sack him from the party.
Sarrazin: What's the fuss about?
The official launch event for Sarrazin's book was held on Monday in Berlin. During the event, Sarrazin said that he was shocked by what he called "the opportunistic attack" against him. The senior politician reiterated his claims that he is not racist, but rather "a numbers man" who isn't afraid to reveal the truth even it is inconvenient for the listener.
In defense of his hotly contested statement, Sarazzin referenced research published in scientific magazines that "reveal the genetic basis shared by European Jews." Regarding the comment itself, he asserted, "It wasn't said in positively or negatively."
'Shut his mouth.' Protest against Sarrazin (Photo: Assaf Oni)
A few hundred protesters met Sarrazin at the entrance to the event hall. They made calls "to fight racism" and "to oust Sarazzin from the Bundesbank leadership." The protesters also played Turkish music at a high volume, but it couldn't be heard from within the event hall where the press conference was held.
Hundreds of journalists crowded into the hall in anticipation for Sarrazin's arrival, which was accompanied by the mad flash of cameras usually reserved for non-political celebrities.
A significant part of the press conference focused on Sarazzin's future. On the backdrop of assessments that his party is about to remove him from its ranks, he said, "I will always remain a member of the people's party."
Regarding reports that Bundestag President Axel Weber is slated to issue a statement on Monday regarding Sarrazin, the latter said, "I don't see any reason to leave the bank's executive."
For many Germans, the problem is not with the subject matter of Sarrazin's statements – the increase of immigrants in Germany, especially Muslims – but the way in which he expresses them in his book. Sarrazin speaks of a "German national identity" and an "inborn intelligence." He also uses statistical tools to prove that immigrants are multiplying at a faster rate than native Germans. He claims that is definitive proof of the threat to the "national identity" and "the level intelligence."
This type of discourse reminds Germans of Nazi anti-Semitism, which also relied heavily on dubious scientific tools to prove its claims. In the media flurry that has been sparked as a result, debate of the actual content of his statements has been lost.
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