Outrage at German banker's comments on Jews, Muslims
A board member of Germany's central bank whose remarks about Jews and Muslims have prompted outrage sparked fresh protests Monday as he unveiled a new book amid calls for his resignation.
Several hundred people, some waving banners reading "Stop far-right populism" braved the Berlin drizzle to protest against Thilo Sarrazin, 65, whose book "Germany is doing away with itself" hit the stands earlier Monday.
After several controversial comments about Muslims, Sarrazin's latest remarks about Jews resulted in fury across the political spectrum and were featured on most of the country's front pages on Monday.
He told the Welt am Sonntag weekly: "All Jews share a particular gene, Basques share particular genes, that differentiate them from others."
Chancellor Angela Merkel slammed his comments as "completely unacceptable."
"The way this is being discussed is dividing society," Merkel said in an interview with public broadcaster ARD late Sunday.
Sarrazin's party, the Social Democrats (SPD), decided on Monday to launch a procedure to expel him, sources told AFP.
Ralf Stegner, a member of the SPD's executive, told the Tageszeitung daily: "It would be better if he left himself but I fear he will not do that."
"His comments have no place in the SPD," added Stegner.
Speaking at the book launch, Sarrazin himself said: "I, like any other employee of the Bundesbank ... have the right to express my opinion."
He has steadfastly clung to his post at the Bundesbank, despite being stripped of some responsibilities for previous remarks about Muslims.
In October, he said that Turks were "conquering Germany in exactly the same way the Kosovars conquered Kosovo: with a higher birth rate."
"A large number of Arabs and Turks in this city (Berlin) ... have no productive function other than selling fruit and vegetables," he added.
In a statement released later Monday, the bank said it "decisively distanced itself" from Sarrazin's views, adding: "The board declares that Dr. Sarrazin's remarks are damaging to the reputation of the Bundesbank."
"The Bundesbank is an institution at which discrimination has no place ... the board will hold talks with Dr. Sarrazin immediately, listen to him and quickly decide what steps to take next," the statement added.
Axel Weber, the Bundesbank president, widely tipped to replace Jean-Claude Trichet as the boss of the European Central Bank next year, has criticised Sarrazin but is powerless to remove him, as he is a political appointee.
Sarrazin said he had not spoken to Weber for more than a week and was "relaxed" about his continued service at the Bundesbank.
The banker's comments have reignited the debate about integration in a country with the largest Turkish population outside Turkey.
The Westdeutsche Zeitung wrote Monday: "The topics Sarrazin addresses in his book are not only sensitive but decisive for the future."
"Even if most enlightened citizens think his comments are politically incorrect, we should not put a positive spin on the problems: there is a lot going wrong with integration in Germany."
"To express this is in order and even important. However, to express it as polemically as Sarrazin, is not in order."
© 2010 AFP