Erdogan appeal to Germany's Turks raises hackles
The Turkish prime minister stirs up tensions over calls for Turks in German to resist assimilation.
Hamburg -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stirred up a hornet's nest in Germany with calls for minority Turks to resist assimilation and be educated in their own schools.
Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected his proposal to send Turkish- trained teachers to work in Germany. Speaking in Hamburg on Monday, she said the minority had to accept the German way of life.
Statistics from 2006 show 1.7 million residents of Germany are Turkish nationals. Including those acquiring German nationality by birth or naturalization, the Turkish community totals 2.4 million in a population of 82 million.
Merkel's rejection was polite compared to the ripostes by newspaper editorialists and other politicians. Reinhard Buetikofer, 55, co-leader of the opposition Greens, said Turks should go to Turkey if they wanted Turkish tuition.
Erdogan first raised the idea on Friday in Berlin when he and Merkel met with a panel of young people.
He said German-language schools and colleges already existed in Turkey, so the converse was desirable in Germany. He said Ankara could supply the teachers.
On Sunday, addressing nearly 20,000 Turks at a campaign-style meeting in Cologne, he said - in Turkish - they must teach their children to integrate and speak good German, but not give up their Turkish ethnicity and "assimilate."
"Assimilation is tantamount to a crime against humanity," Erdogan said in remarks that provoked outrage in some quarters.
It has been a fractious week between Germany and its ethnic minority.
A February 3 fire in a tenement in the city of Ludwigswafen killed nine Turkish residents, but instead of the tragedy drawing the two peoples together, there have been recriminations.
Many Turks fear neo-Nazis burned down the building. The German media have doubted it. Police are still investigating.
The teachers debate has highlighted the poor performance of minority children in German public schools, where the vast majority of teaching staff are middle-class Germans.
German nationality is required for most jobs in the teaching profession or the police in Germany.
Only about 30,000 adult Turks seek German citizenship annually. Germany insists they irrevocably abandon their old nationality.
In the eyes of some Germans, Erdogan has set himself up as a spokesman for the normally reticent minority.
Aiman A Mayzek, 38, a writer who leads a liberal German Muslim group and is not an ethnic Turk himself, said Monday that integration was failing and it was the Germans' fault.
"Erdogan and his government have realized there is a political vacuum among Turks living in Germany," said Mayzek, a political- studies graduate who heads the Central Council of Muslims.
"That's because the German political parties don't really care about Turkish people."
It had upset Turks in Germany to hear their suspicion of neo-Nazi arson smacked down so quickly, he commented.
"I would have liked the chancellor to express her condolences personally, not via a spokesman," he added.
Merkel said Monday she had made clear to the young people last week that she, not Erdogan, was in charge.
"I told the young people: if you grow up in Germany in the third or fourth generation, if most of you have German citizenship, then I am your chancellor.
"If you have a concern, then this concern is just as important to me as it is to someone who can say they have 500 years of German ancestry," she said.
DPA with Expatica