We reprint an open letter signed by over one hundred UK-based German students and academics critical of the format of the ‘LSE German Symposium 2011 – Integration Debate’ – in particular the invitation extended to Thilo Sarrazin and Henryk Broder.
Integration instead of a Clash of Cultures?
An Open Letter Regarding the ‘LSE German Symposium 2011 – Integration Debate’.
We are irritated by the invitation extended to Mr Thilo Sarrazin and Mr Henryk M. Broder to sit on the panel of the opening event of this year’s ‘German Symposium’ at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on 14 February 2011, which is entitled ‘Integration Debate: Europe’s Future – “Decline of the West”?’ Both authors have severely harmed the debate and by this poisoned the social peace in Germany. The panel’s title draws on slogans alluding to an alleged clash of cultures, while the invitation of a representative of the Muslim community in Germany falsely directs the discussion’s attention to a religious minority.
The public statements made by Mr Sarrazin and Mr Broder distort causalities and disregard central causes of this challenge affecting all of society. Regarding these challenges, research on migration and integration has repeatedly identified socio-economic factors as their prime causes. However, Mr Sarrazin and Mr Broder argue that there exists a pathological unwillingness among minorities in Germany (in particular Muslims) to integrate into society, claiming that religious and cultural background account for this alleged lack. Mr Sarrazin goes as far as to ‘link genetics and culture’ (Frank Schirrmacher, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29 August 2010).
Addressing the challenges facing our immigrant society requires a future-oriented debate, which offers solutions to pressing concerns. Such a debate must be conducted rationally and make use of the findings of scientific research. Across Germany, a variety of programmes are being successfully implemented on the political level. These address in particular the equality of access to education and the labour market, and thereby aim to foster an understanding which mandates that efforts be taken collectively. On the other hand, the defeatist and culturalist argumentation found in publications in Germany such as Mr Sarrazin’s Germany Does Away With Itself (2010) and Mr Broder’s Hurray, We Capitulate! (2006) leads to division rather than understanding, while equally lacking any serious suggestion aimed at overcoming societal problems. The stigmatisation of certain social groups by Mr Sarrazin threatens social harmony and social cohesion; the secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany characterised public statements made by Mr Sarrazin as ‘racist’ and aiming for ‘lowest instincts’ (Stephan J. Kramer, Der Tagesspiegel, 13 October 2009). Both, Mr Sarrazin and Mr Broder, warn of an allegedly looming Islamisation of Europe and thereby join a group of Islamophobic publicists and politicians across the continent.
Naturally, every debate must be conducted critically and aim to include all constructive views which seek a resolution of the matter at hand. It is equally obvious that human dignity is to be respected at all times. In light of his empirically falsified and provocative statements and publications, which could be construed, in parts, as inciting racial hatred, Mr Sarrazin in particular has disqualified himself from such a rational, constructive debate. Mr Broder, as can be deduced from his public statements and writings, is equally disinterested in holding a beneficial debate.
We, students and academics, Germans and others with very close ties to Germany, are vehemently opposed that the integration debate, which will open this year’s ‘LSE German Week’, draws on these provocateurs – the programme initially listed them as ‘iconic public figures’ – instead of on acknowledged experts.
The LSE is rightly considered to be among the world’s leading social science universities, which prides itself with its open-mindedness and its international student body. Therefore, the university’s German Society should aim to represent a modern, progressive and open-minded Germany, which is fit to face the challenges of the 21st century. We therefore criticise that the polemical, socially divisive and non-scientific theses of Mr Sarrazin and Mr Broder are given a prominent platform on an overall inadequately staffed panel.