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German [Dis]Integration

Immigration and Integration are two of the most difficult problems facing German society – and Europe more broadly.  European countries are trying to understand, and adapt old legal regimes to, a wave of eastern, mostly Muslim immigrants, who constitute the majority of immigrants in Europe, “including in Belgium, France … and the Netherlands, and the largest single component of the immigrant population in the United Kingdom. . . . [I]t is estimated that between 15 and 20 million Muslims now call Europe home and make up four to five per cent of its total population.”  (Robert S. Leiken, “Europe’s Angry Muslims,” 84 FOREIGN AFFAIRS 120, 122 (2005)).  Germany is no exception to the trend, with more than 16 million residents of foreign descent, of whom 7 million are not citizens.  Many of these foreigners can be counted as “non-German” only in a strictly formal sense.  Most represent the second or third generation to be born and lawfully reside in Germany.  There are 4 million Muslims in Germany, almost all of whom have immigrant backgrounds.

The assimilation of these immigrants in Germany and elsewhere in Europe has not always been trouble-free – especially as the phenomenon implicates the thorny intersection of Europe’s Christian, although now largely secular, cultural and legal tradition and many Muslims’ attempts to honor the tenets of Islamic law (Sharia).  This cultural negotiation has been described by some in the west as a “clash of civilizations.”  A number of headline-grabbing developments seem to confirm this view.  In 2004 France banned “conspicuous” religious symbols in a move that was patently aimed at Muslim women wearing the traditional headscarf.  In 2005 a Danish newspaper’s publication of political cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in unflattering terms triggered incendiary protests by Muslims around the world and led Denmark to reconsider and retrench free speech and free press rights.  In the last decade legal systems across Europe have had to come to grips with an increasing number of so-called “honor-killings”, murders perpetrated by orthodox Muslims—usually against women relatives—for perceived Western sleights of traditional values.  In 2008 the Archbishop of the Church of England was embroiled in controversy after suggesting that Muslims in Brittan should be able to have Sharia norms applied to a discrete number of concerns by independent Islamic courts.  In 2009 nearly 60 per cent of those who participated in a national referendum in Switzerland voted to ban the construction of minarets.  In 2010 a prominent member of Germany’s center-left SPD political party published a run-away bestseller entitled “Germany is Doing Itself In” in which he brashly complains about the rising birth-rate amongst Germany’s uneducated immigrants.  Anders Behring Breivik is accused of a murderous rampage in Norway, in the summer of 2011, that seems to have been motivated by his hatred for Muslims and his belief that Norwegian politicians had not done enough to defend the country from Islamic influence.

As part of their annual comparative law research program, W&L law students serving as editors of the German Law Journal are exploring the German legal regime linked to questions of immigration and integration.  The program is called “German [Dis]Integration:  The Image of the Immigrant in German Law and Culture”.  In a series of seminar discussions, film screenings, and guest lectures, the students will examine German constitutional law, administrative law (including immigration and asylum policy) and private/anti-discrimination law.  They will closely assess German Constitutional Court cases involving a ban on the headscarf in the civil service, a ban on hilal slaughter, and the deportation to Turkey of juvenile offender who was a Turkish citizen despite the fact that he had been born and raised in Germany.  In fulfillment of the German Law Journal’s commitment to understanding law in its social context, the students also will screen two award-winning Turkish-German films and hear lectures on the image of the immigrant in Germany film and literature.

German [Dis]Integration Program (pdf)

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