I would like to call for a "war on hysteria," if that would not be so hysterical in itself. Where are the German Jon Stewarts, who could restore some sanity over here? The whole debate in Germany about multiculturalism and Muslims, immigration and integration is full of hysteria. It's gotten so hysterical, that this debate now includes Halloween and nuclear energy.
One leader of the conservatives in the German parliament sees Christianity threatened by Halloween. Another one is concerned that protests against nuclear energy and against a train station in Stuttgart could lead to the building of minarets in one's front garden. Alexander Dobrinth of the Bavaria's Christian Democrats is quoted by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German): "Wer, wie die Grünen, seinerzeit gegen Atomkraft demonstriert hat und heute gegen Stuttgart 21 agitiert, der braucht sich nicht zu wundern, wenn er übermorgen ein Minarett im Vorgarten stehen hat."
The chairman of the Junge Union, the youth wing of the Christian Democrats, expressed concern regarding the increasing popularity of Halloween in Germany. Philipp Missfelder wrote in Bild (in German) that it is our duty to defend Christian traditions against the Zeitgeist. He also reduced "trick or treat" to children wearing monster masks to beg for sweets.
Most Americans celebrate Halloween AND Christian holidays. Germans should be able to do both, if they want to.
Christianity in Germany is not under attack by Islam or Halloween. The real problem is that more and more Christians lost interest in practicing their own religion.
There are many more politicians from other parties as well who reinforce the world's impression that Germans are increasingly less tolerant of other cultures and traditions.
Sure, there are many problems with immigration, integration, and islamophobia, but it's not as bad as the media and our politicians make it sound with their focus on anecdotal evidence. As Jon Stewart said:
The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bring them into focus, illuminating issues -- or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.
Let's counter anecdotes with a survey and restore some sanity: The Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration has published its Integration Barometer 2010 in German and in English:
The native and immigrant populations are, in general, satisfied with the developments in integration policy over the last years, and look towards the future of integration and integration policy with cautious optimism. 50 per cent of all respondents maintain that integration policy has improved the degree of integration in the last years. Nearly as many expect further improvements in the future, while only 10 to 15 per cent of respondents anticipate that future integration policies will deteriorate integration. b) The native and immigrant populations have a shared pragmatic and hands-on approach to integration, and, on the one hand, refrain from demanding cultural assimilation, and from insisting on exclusive cultural privileges, on the other."
To understand the reasons for the hysteria in German politics and additional problems of our democracy, I recommend the NY Times op-ed Leadership and Leitkultur by Germany's most respected living philosopher Jürgen Habermas (HT: Pamela):
The motivations underlying each of the three phenomena - the fear of immigrants, attraction to charismatic nonpoliticians and the grass-roots rebellion in Stuttgart - are different. But they meet in the cumulative effect of a growing uneasiness when faced with a self-enclosed and ever more helpless political system. The more the scope for action by national governments shrinks and the more meekly politics submits to what appear to be inevitable economic imperatives, the more people's trust in a resigned political class diminishes.
The United States has a president with a clear-headed political vision, even if he is embattled and now meets with mixed feelings. What is needed in Europe is a revitalized political class that overcomes its own defeatism with a bit more perspective, resoluteness and cooperative spirit. Democracy depends on the belief of the people that there is some scope left for collectively shaping a challenging future.