Saturday, August 18, 2012

Turks in Germany are Religious, but Favor Integration

When news hit the headlines this spring that Salafists in Germany were handing out free Korans in city centers across the country, the outcry was immediate. Politicians called for the campaign to be banned, journalists wrote extensively about Salafist radicalism and even the publishing house printing the free Korans distanced itself.

One group of people living in Germany, however, was not nearly as put off by the promotion. According to a new survey among those of Turkish descent living in the country, almost two-thirds of those aged between 15 and 29 consider the distribution of the Koran to be "good" or "very good," and one-third of them would donate money to the cause.

The result, says Holger Liljeberg, who heads Info GmbH, the company that conducted the survey, "could be the result of a resurgence among young people of religious values from their parents' homeland." Liljeberg, however, warned against concluding that the survey results -- based on interviews with 1,011 people of Turkish heritage in Germany over the age of 15 -- indicate a trend toward radicalization. Indeed, even as the number of those who identify themselves as strictly religious is rising (from 33 percent in 2009 to 37 percent this year), so too is the share of immigrants who wish to integrate completely into German society.

The willingness of Turkish migrants and their descendents to integrate into German society remains high and is climbing. Whereas 70 percent said in 2010 that they want to "absolutely and without reservations integrate into German society," the new survey found that 78 percent of respondents agreed. Similarly, whereas 59 percent said two years ago that they wanted to belong to German society, 75 percent say so now. Fully 95 percent say that all children with Turkish backgrounds should go to day care facilities so as to learn German prior to entering school.

Overall, the survey released on Friday paints an image of a Turkish community in Germany that is split between a trend toward increased religiosity, particularly among the younger generations, and a desire to fit into German society. For example, whereas only 8 percent of those surveyed said they were in favor of purely Turkish-language elementary schools for children with Turkish backgrounds, 62 percent (up from 40 percent in 2010) said they prefer hanging out with fellow Turks.

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