BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Saturday that the multicultural model for integration in Germany has "miserably failed." For the first time, Merkel expressed a clear position in an ongoing debate over the integration of immigrants – especially Muslims – into German society, stressing that the current situation must be changed.
According to Merkel, immigrants should be required to integrate in society, by committing to learn the German language – and not only be allowed to do so voluntarily, as has been the policy up until now.
Despite her criticism, however, Merkel stressed that Islam was an "integral" part of modern Germany.
The chancellor's comment were said during a speech in front of the Christian-Democratic Union party youth congress (CDU-CSU), and came in the midst of a stormy debate ranging across the country's political spectrum, with CSU Chairman Horst Seehofer calling to stop Muslim immigration to Germany on the one hand, and President Christian Wolff declaring that Islam is part of Germany, just like Judaism and Christianity, on the other.
Merkel's remarks reinforced Seehofer's declaration on Friday, saying "multiculturalism is dead," and indicate a swerve to the right in the ruling party's policies – at least on matters pertaining to immigration.
Seehofer, who stirred a storm last week after declaring in a magazine interview that immigration from Turkey and the Arab countries – which he defined "foreign cultures" – must be stopped, added on Friday that Germany draws its values only from "Judeo-Christian tradition and humanistic values."
Although Seehofer's comments were strongly condemned by German officials including his own party members, Chancellor Merkel abstained from issuing a response.
In the past few weeks media outlets have been extensively covering various stories relating to immigrants in Germany, including a report about German students who were regularly harassed by children of immigrants, who call them names such as "pig eaters."
A popular German tabloid reported that a real estate company in one of the Gulf states conditioned signing rental contracts for apartments in the center of Berlin with adherence to "Islamic values," such as prohibition on drinking alcohol and gambling.
A comprehensive survey published this week indicated that more than a third of Germans supported sending immigrants back to their original homelands – even though some have been living in Germany for over 40 years.
According to the poll, 55% of Germans believed that Muslims are "unpleasant people," compared with 44% who held the same sentiments seven years ago.
Fifty eight percent claimed that the practice of Islam should be restricted in Germany, while one-in-ten Germans said they yearned for a "fuehrer" – a term affiliated with the Third Reich, meaning a "strong leader."
Commentators raised the possibility that public sentiments and declining coalitional approval rates prompted the Right to associate with the populist camp in an effort to garner support.
The prevalent feeling in the country is that the dam has been breached, and that it is suddenly permissible to speak against immigrants in Germany, said an integration expert from the Free University of Berlin in an interview with the New York Times.
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