TCS Daily


Immigrant Test

By Patti McCracken - April 12, 2006 12:00 AM

Resurrecting the cities felled by war was a burden too high for Germany to undertake without extra hands and hammers pitching in to help. So in the years following World War II, the country welcomed -- encouraged -- guest workers from Europe's poorer countries, namely Turkey, who were grateful for the opportunity. After the reconstruction was complete, the steady tide of immigrants still streamed in, taking jobs which offered low wages and low security, but jobs nonetheless.

But Germany, like many European countries, has no history as a nation of immigrants. Unlike the UK, Australia, or America, there are no melting pots or "mixed salads" there. But the gastarbeiter plan has worked, more or less, for decades, and Germany is generally aligned with other European Union nations regarding immigration laws and policy.

Still, the cultural fault line in Europe is setting Muslims farther adrift from Everyone Else, and the recent flurry of strict immigration laws imposed by a handful of west European nations is increasing the seismic rumble. "More and more EU states are introducing tests which will make it more difficult for applicants," says Dr. Rainer Bauboeck, senior researcher at the Institute of European Integration in Vienna.

Further complicating the immigration procedure in Germany is that it varies from state to state: Each district can decide whether or not to give a test, and also decide the content, which can include obscure local historical and cultural questions. There is no federal test, candidates from western countries, such as the US, are exempt, and exams often include questions that demand an opinionated answer.

"Some tests are targeted at Muslims, and test whether or not they can conform to 'European values,' such as gender equality," says Bauboeck. "But these are viewed as discriminatory. You cannot ask questions only of Muslims."

Apparently, you can. The Netherlands made headlines in recent weeks when it announced it would force applicants from Muslim countries to view videos of topless sunbathers and homosexual contact, to determine if they were ready to immigrate to the liberal Netherlands. And the German state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg wants to follow suit with its own video on gays and nudity, and already has composed a controversial questionnaire that has some leaders up in arms.

"It asks for opinions on gays and lesbians, gender questions," says Cev Ozdemir, a Green Party Member of the European Parliament, and the first MP in Germany with Turkish/Muslim heritage. Ozdemir finds it ironic that members of the conservative party in Germany, never ones to embrace homosexual rights, now find themselves defending gays and lesbians as part of European culture.

The severe tone struck by lawmakers may reflect post 9/11 fear: The Madrid and London bombings, the rioting in France after two Muslims youths were killed, the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh have made Europeans jittery. But in Germany there is another thread of resistance related to a small but troubling band of extremism conducted within the Muslim community itself. This has to do with gender issues, arranged marriages, and justice meted out within the family structure.

Honor killings -- when one family member murders another because the "family honor" has been violated -- have occurred in the German Islamic communities at a rate of about five per year during the last decade. Recently, three Turkish-Kurd brothers went to prison for killing their sister because she was acting too Western (she divorced her husband from an arranged marriage and became an electrician).

Some argue that the tight-knit, transplanted Muslim communities have insulated themselves even from the evolving modernity in their country of origin. Thus, parts of Germany can be more extreme than parts of Turkey. German writer Peter Schneider describes these parallel worlds within Germany as a "new wall rising in Berlin."

But how can this wall be stopped? Should Germany, or any other country, intimidate to integrate? "The point is not to provoke, but to inform," says Ozdemir. "But the question seems to be: How can we provoke people rather than how can we integrate them." Opposition leaders argue it is unlawful to target Muslims. "It's like making special legislation for blacks or Jews," says Ozdemir.

He cites an example of what he calls provocative questioning. "We recently had a case where an applicant got additional questions not on the test. He was asked: Does your wife swim? Everyone knows that conservative Muslims don't allow women and men to swim together. But the man answered 'yes, my wife swims.' So the second question was: 'Does she wear a bikini?' If she does wear a bikini, what then? Does she go before them and they judge whether or not her bikini is acceptable? This is something out of Monty Python."

What are European values? How are they evaluated? And is it constitutional to test someone on what many in free countries consider a private matter? "Even the Pope could not become a citizen," says Ozdemir, "because the question of a female boss would be a problem for him."

The writer is a journalist based in Vienna.

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3 Comments

The answer is simple......
muslims and all non-Europeans NEED TO JUST STAY IN THE MIDDLE EAST OR GET OUT OF EUROPE IF ALREADY PRESENT AND LIVING OFF TAXDOLLARS!! Don't wring your hands and bash your heads on the wall trying to figure out what to do with people who have no intention of assimilating. Do you remember suburban Paris burning to the ground last year courtesy of these same muslims that the Europeans were attempting to integrate? They want to only live in Europe as muslims not as European citizens. We must stop pretending that they want to assimilate or love us non-muslims. Remember Madrid, London, New York? These people only get worse as their numbers grown every month. How dare these people complain in Germany about language requirements and watching videos as part of entering the nation. If they do not like it than GET OUT and vote with your feet jumping on the next Air Jordan flight back to the islamic world. Nobody kidnapped them or put a gun to their heads to come to Europe or anywhere else in the world. They came willingly and than complain we are rude or inhospitable. It is simple, go back home. Do you see Americans or other westerners immigrating to muslim nations and making demands and abusing their welfare rolls because that is what muslims do in the west. What would happen to us if westerners living in an islamic nation rebelled, demanded churches be built with public funds, tried to convert locals to Christianity, or carried a Bible in public? We would be shot, beheaded, imprisoned, or whipped and than deported out of the country. Why do our spineless leaders cater to these islamic rats when they can not tolerate 1 Christian in Afghanistan? I ask again why do we allow any muslims to live in the west and make us change our ways, laws, and cultures to accomodate their beliefs and traditions? Enough of this nonsense and we all need to encourage our governments to send these economic dregs back to the islamic countries and LET THEIR GOVERNMENTS PAY THEIR WELFARE AND NOT US!! Am I saying anything crazy? We are allowing our governments to slowly betray us and it needs to stop with the next set of elections. We need leadership that will protect our individual nations and not allow them to be destroyed.

Are we liberal enough?
The tests proposed by the Dutch would disturb many UK citizens especially the more senior ones.
Are we unfit to be Europeans ?

Most would not pass
It is not that long ago that these images could not even be shown on television without protest. Many even today would avoid them.

It is absolutely ridiculuos that this should be called 'liberal'.
I can not see what this has to do with the Liberalism I am willing to defend.
It is common to confuse practises, that in so far as they did not directly offend or endanger to an extend that anyone complained about would not be punished, with Liberalism or 'being a liberal' itself.

I could not tell you with any certainty what the people who came up with this have in mind.
I am a witness, day in day out, of the utter moral confusion that is called Dutch Culture today by such people.
Indeed they have achieved dominance over more Classical strains of Liberal thought but those still persist and haven't given up entirely.

As was said earlier here and by others elsewhere: It is not likely that most Dutch people would pass these tests.
Not because of the questions of private morality, it would be factual ones most would fail.

Although the position that immigrants can be held to a higher standard than just the average of those born here is not explicitly taken, it is clear that they indeed are when it comes to certain types of questions.

The specific questions on morality are perhaps best taken as questions about the people who came up with them.

But that still does not give you an answer if you should ask how well any applicant would fare in this society regardles of these tests.
That is an entirely different matter.

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