German ‘Muslim test’ stirs anger

The cafe Fleck und Speck is as cosmopolitan as Stuttgart gets.

During an evening there, I meet a Kurd, a Serbian Jew, and a German whose curly black hair betrays his Mexican heritage.

This is the multicultural dream that Germany’s Left has promoted for decades – but which not everyone shares.

The Christian Democrat-led government of Baden-Wuerttemberg, of which Stuttgart is the capital, has just introduced new “discussion guidelines” which have sparked national controversy.

They consist of 30 questions which can be put to applicants for German citizenship to see if they share democratic values. But they have been strongly attacked as aimed against the state’s large Turkish community – and dubbed “the Muslim test”.

“This measure – the so-called discussion guidelines – means that I cannot imagine applying for German citizenship in the near future,” says Sueheyla Ince, a local lawyer who was born in Germany but holds a Turkish passport.

“I have to prove, by answering these questions, that I’m a ‘good’ Muslim,” she says, “because it puts all Muslims under a general suspicion of terrorism and insinuates that they’re not interested in the values of the German constitution.”

The questions, which have been leaked to the German media, cover a range of subjects. A few examples:

• How do you view the statement that a woman should obey her husband, and that he can beat her if she doesn’t?

• You learn that people from your neighbourhood or from among friends or acquaintances have carried out or are planning a terrorist attack – what do you do?

• Some people hold the Jews responsible for all the evil in the world, and even claim they were behind the attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York. What is your view of this claim?

• Imagine that your son comes to you and declares that he’s a homosexual and would like to live with another man. How do you react?

The new measure is the brainchild of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Interior Minister, Heribert Rech.

“When there are doubts about an applicant’s values, the easiest thing is for an official to have a talk with him – but not a talk about the weather or about football,” he says.

“It needs to be about his view of our constitution, of tolerance, of sexual equality, or of the state’s monopoly on the use of violence. Only with these questions can we come close to finding the answers we need.”


An opinion poll found 76% of Germans agree. This country has around three million Muslim inhabitants – mostly Turkish, with Bosnians making up the next largest group, followed by people of Arab origin.

Since 11 September 2001, which was partly planned and carried out by Muslim students based in Hamburg, these communities have been viewed with suspicion.

There have been controversies over headscarf bans (also first introduced in Baden-Wuerttemberg) and over so-called “honour killings” of Muslim women by family members.

There is also currently a row over a Berlin school that has banned the use of languages other than German in the playground.

But many politicians have said the “discussion guidelines” merely pander to popular stereotypes of Muslims.

“Mr Rech is creating a problem which does not exist,” says Cem Ozdemir, a Green Party MEP from Baden-Wuerttemberg.

“I would wish that we live in a world where everybody is accepting equal rights for gays and lesbians, where everybody fully understands the need for equal rights for men and women and so on.

“But unfortunately that is not the case – and it’s not only a problem of migrants from Muslim countries. It’s a problem of Christians and people who are already citizens of Germany.”

Stuttgart’s Turkish community is organising a petition drive and demonstrations. But it is going to be an uphill battle.

A motion condemning the new measure, tabled by the Greens in the Bundestag, was defeated. Many politicians have voiced support for the guidelines, and the neighbouring state of Hessen is now considering following Baden-Wuerttemberg’s lead.

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Feb. 10, 2006
Ray Furlong

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday February 10, 2006.
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