Muslims In Germany

October 30, 2009

Author: Staff Writer

Source: PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

DEBORAH POTTER, correspondent: Almost 90 percent of the students at Rainbow Elementary School in Berlin are from immigrant families, most of them Muslim. Fitting in can be tough, because a lot of them can’t speak German—even though many of their families have been here for decades.

HEIDRUN BOEHMER (School Principal): When I started being a teacher more than thirty years ago I thought that problem we won’t have in ten years. They all will speak German. But they don’t.

POTTER: Heidrun Boehmer has watched her students struggle to succeed. About 75 percent never finish high school—more than double the national rate. In school and the outside world, their chances are limited by a complicated mix of social and economic issues, religion, and history.

Muslim immigrants, mainly from Turkey, first came here in large numbers in the 1960s, when Germany was facing a severe labor shortage. They were called “guest workers,” but most of them never went home. Instead, they brought their families and settled in neighborhoods like Neukolln in Berlin, where shop signs are in Turkish and Arabic, and satellite dishes bring in programs from back home. Storefront mosques are tucked behind fruit stands. Until ten years ago, immigrants could not become German citizens, and they still don’t have a chance at most government jobs. Integration just hasn’t happened.