Mesut Ozil + Bambi = Social Cohesion

Mesut Ozil + Bambi = Social Cohesion
Mesut Ozil poses with the Bambi award for Integration in 2010

Mesut Ozil poses with the Bambi award for Integration in 2010

How a Turkish German and an award named after a Disney character can possibly help Britain’s failing record on Multiculturalism.

Mesut Ozil has impressed everyone with his attacking displays for Real Madrid and Germany respectively.

But it’s not just his football prowess that has attracted attention. Ozil is also a winner of the prestigious BAMBI award in Germany.

The BAMBI  awards are presented annually by Hubert Burda Media to recognise excellence in international media and television “with vision and creativity who affected and inspired the German public that year,” both domestic and foreign. First held in 1948, they are the oldest media awards in Germany. The award is named after Felix Salten‘s book Bambi, A Life in the Woods and its statuettes are in the shape of the novel’s titular fawn character. Walt Disney take a bow.

So what has that got to with Mesut Ozil? Mesut Ozil is a third generation Turkish German, and a reflection of the close relationship between Germany and Turkey.  Germany has been in contact with Turkey since the 17th and 18th centuries when the Ottoman Turks attempted to expand their territories beyond the north Balkan territories. Turkey also fought on the German side in the First World War. Furthermore, the large-scale of immigration of Turkish workers from the beginning of the 1960s was on the one hand, due to the high population growth and mass unemployment within Turkey, and on the other, due to the demand for labour in north-west Europe.

As the biggest foreign population in Germany, Turkish and people of Turkish origin are the main figurehead of most German cities. Döner Kebab has become traditional German food. Turkish politicians are campaigning for both German and Turkish voters. Turkish people present TV shows.  They act in German movies and they win prizes for Germany. During the enthusiastic celebrations of the Football World Cup, Turkish people supported the German team together with the other Germans. But the public opinion also sees the dark sides. Integration problems, criminality amongst youth, honour killings and fear of “foreign infiltration”. The on-going debates are either mainly over assimilation versus a Turkish parallel society or a German “leading culture” versus multiculturalism, which reflect these two sides of the coin. It is also mirrors the same issues that West Indian, African and Asian communities face in Britain too. I know too well the trials and tribulations of attempting to wear an England shirt and to be berated by both black people and people that belong to Far Right groups.

For Turkish people in Germany, patterns of discrimination maintain disadvantages of low economic and social status, whilst also restraining social advancement. Despite their long-term residency, Turkish people continue to face hostility, which has intensified since the mid-1970s. In Germany today, there is an undercurrent of xenophobia in public opinion and an open emphasis on xenophobia in right-wing and neo-Nazi organisations. The wave of xenophobic violence that saw offences treble between 1991 and 1993, claimed several Turkish lives and revealed how excluded and vulnerable non-Germans have remained in German society.

 The number of violent acts by right-wing extremists in Germany increased dramatically between 1990 and 1992.On November 25, 1992, three Turkish residents were killed in a firebombing in Mölln. The attack prompted even further perplexity since the victims were neither refugees nor lived in a hostel. The same was true for the incident in a Westphalian town on May 29, 1993; where another arson attack took place in Solingen against a Turkish family that had resided in Germany for twenty-three years, five of whom were burnt to death. Several neighbours heard someone shout Heil Hitler! before dousing the front porch and door with gasoline and setting the fire to the home. However, most Germans condemned these attacks on foreigners and many marched in candlelight processions.

Author Greg Nees, writing in 2000, stated that “Because Turks are both darker-skinned and Muslim, conservative Germans are largely against granting them citizenship.”Along with the fact that Turkey has a bad human rights record, the previous points further support the notion that Turkey has not received membership to the European Union because parts of the country  are non-Christian and “uncivilised”.

In 2010, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that multiculturalism in Germany had “failed utterly”. The German leader said it had been an illusion to think that Germans and foreign workers could “live happily side by side”. At a conference of the youth wing of the Christian Democratic Union party, the German leader said (in reference to guest workers) “At the start of the 60s we invited the guest-workers to Germany. We kidded ourselves for a while that they wouldn’t stay, that one day they’d go home. That isn’t what happened. And of course the tendency was to say: let’s be ‘multikulti’ and live next to each other and enjoy being together, [but] this concept has failed, failed utterly.”  A very honest and frank ‘confession’ or a reflection of covert neo-Nazism, which has always dogged Germany.

In that same year, Özil received the Bambi award for being a prime example of successful integration within German society. “This is a great honour for me and I’m very happy,” he said. “Integration creates something new and makes for a more colourful Germany.” It was clear that Germany wanted to address multiculturalism promptly and efficiently just like the way they make cars, play football and live life.

Germany’s style of affairs might work for Britain because, even David Cameron has admitted that state multiculturalism has failed Britain. But whatever approach Britain decides on – whether it is work on the problem or fix the problem, slowly or at full speed, especially as the Far Right seems to be on the rise, everybody in Britain needs to sign up to it. After all, it is the people who will help to make it work.

– Kieron Blake

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