ONLINE MAGAZINE 5
(May 2010) Globalisation / Globalisierung
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Turkish culture in Germany
By Danielle Kirkup
Multiculturalism goes hand in hand with globalisation. Although not new, the establishment of different cultures, languages, and religions in countries other than their origin has taken on a new form with open borders, increased freedom of movement, and trade links aided by high speed rail networks and air travel, the tickets for which are reserved over the world wide web.
The origins of German multiculturalism
Multiculturalism in Germany immediately brings to my mind the 1960s and the arrival of the Gastarbeiter (guest worker), who came to Germany seeking work as part of a formal Gastarbeiterprogramm (guest worker programme). Despite popular belief, many of the Gastarbeiter did return to Turkey. However, many also stayed in Germany and have since contributed to the Turkish peoples becoming the largest ethnic minority in Germany.
Turkish influences on German society
The Turkish minority in Germany has had various influences on German society. On the one hand, Turkish culture has enriched that of Germany with the kebab and films such as Auf der anderen Seite (On the other side) and Im Juli (In July) by the Turkish-German film director Fatih Akin. On the other hand, Turkish culture and most recently the Turkish language has proven to be a sticking point in Turkish-German relations.
In March 2010, the Turkish Prime Minister's call to introduce Turkish schools in Germany sparked debates among politicians, TV celebrities, school children and teachers alike. The main argument of those in support of the Turkish Prime Minister's proposal was: "In Turkey, we have German high schools - why shouldn't there be Turkish high schools in Germany?". The opposition's reply to this argument: "Only those who know German have a chance of social advancement".
In my opinion, both arguments are missing the point. They fail to view multiculturalism beyond the traditional understanding of its meaning that every culture has the right to exist and there is no over-arching thread that holds them together. This type of multiculturalism is destructive because there's no thread to hold society together.
A common thread to hold society together
Rather, multiculturalism should be understood from the other perspective of diversity, where people have their own cultural beliefs and they happily coexist - but there is a common thread to hold society together. Of course, I am aware that this is a utopian-sounding aim and that the question of whether there is such a thing as happy coexistence is debatable.
But how can we really know unless we try? What is more, we need to recognise that the path leading to this happy coexistence entails setbacks and compromises on both sides. With such debates as the establishment of Turkish schools, it is easy to lose sight of the benefits of a multicultural society in Germany or anywhere else for that matter. Cultural exchange broadens our minds, allows us to view things from a different perspective, and enriches our own cultures.