Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 30, 2010 11:32AM

Are Muslim immigrants making Europe "poorer and stupider"?

Rate: 10 Flag

 Thilo Sarrazin
"Intellectual arsonist" or "The ghost writer of a frightened society"?
German economist and author Thilo Sarrazin (65)
(Source: Bild)


BACK IN THE RESTLESS 1990s, when the German far right was undergoing yet another short-lived rebirth into the political mainstream, the racist Republican Party under the leadership of ex-Nazi and SS man Franz Schönhuber used to put up what I still regard as the most remarkable political poster ever. Printed in the nationalist colors black, white, and red, it simply displayed the words: “We say what you think.” Today, another German politician has been making headlines in recent weeks for also saying aloud what millions of Europeans fervently believe but rarely dare to put into words. His explosive new book Germany is Abolishing Itself appeared on store shelves this morning, and the future of European politics may depend on what happens next.


Deutschland schafft sich ab 

Thilo Sarrazin has courted controversy ever since he became finance senator (i.e. finance minister) of Berlin in 2002, before transferring to the board of directors of Deutsche Bank last year. But nothing in his upbringing suggested that this skilled economist would eventually rise to become the “great white hope”of the German right. Sarrazin was born to a successful Westphalian doctor and his wife, the daughter of an East Prussian aristocrat, in the last weeks of the Second World War. The bookish youth attended an exclusive humanistic Gymnasium and studied economics at the University of Bonn, where he earned a doctorate in 1973. He later joined the progressive leaning Social Democratic Party (SPD) and played a significant role in stage-managing the currency union between East and West Germany in 1990.

As finance senator, Sarrazin quickly gained a reputation as a hardcore cost-cutter, slashing welfare benefits and making disparaging remarks about Berlin’s unemployed and its large Muslim immigrant population. He has never been a believer in political correctness. For example, in 2002 he reacted sharply to complaints about his plan to raise children’s preschool fees, complaining that “people act as if the [Berlin] Senate is sending the children to concentration camps.” When challenged for claiming that welfare recipients should learn to feed themselves on no more than four Euros per day, he famously replied that “losing weight is the least of their problems.”

It is therefore no surprise that Sarrazin is offering readers a repeat performance in his new 464 page book, Germany is Abolishing Itself – How We Are Putting Our Country At Risk, which comes bound in an eye-catching black, red, and white cover. The only surprise comes in the vehemence of his arguments – and the bluntness of his anti-Muslim bias. “From an economic perspective, we don’t need Muslim immigration to Europe,” he writes. On the contrary: Muslim immigrants are making Germany – and the rest of the continent – poorer and stupider.

Die Republikaner 
"Germanness is HOT"
Poster of the anti-immigrant Republican Party
(Source: media.de)

Sarrazin sees Germany's predicament in biological terms. “The problem is not that the number of descendants of people with an advanced education shrinks from generation to generation,” Sarrazin writes. “That would not be so important if all people were equally gifted, because then education would be a mere question of upbringing. But since the education level and inherited intelligence impact one another, this represents a negative trend over time for the population’s intellectual potential when people with a high educational level show below average fertility and people with low education show an above average fertility.” As a result, “human evolution ultimately depends on the process of natural selection: The genetic material of those who survive the best and reproduce the most spreads. Since the survival chances in modern society are identical, the genes of those with the highest fertility are spread the farthest.”

Islam itself represents a serious challenge for Europe, as women remain oppressed and sharia law takes root across the continent. “In no other religion is there such an easy crossover to violence, dictatorship, and terrorism.” Sarrazin goes on to say that “in Berlin 20 percent of all acts of violence are committed by only 1,000 Turkish and Arab youths, a population group that represents 0.3 percent of the entire Berlin population.” He believes the problem is exacerbated by a culture of machismo and misogyny that threatens European values and may pull the rest of the continent down with it. Sarrazin points out that only 14 percent of Muslim young people finish the advanced secondary school (Gymnasium) and 30 percent do not complete their school education at all, a figure greatly at odds with those measured among native Germans and the children of immigrants from Asia. In the meantime, Muslims choose to smooch off the German welfare state and refuse to assimilate. “I do not want to become a stranger in my own country,” Sarrazin says.

What is to be done? Sarrazin's prescription is a bitter medicine indeed. Of course greater assimilation is necessary, including language courses and a ban on head scarves and other symbols of female oppression. And yet, “the only reasonable course of action can be to put a general halt to further immigration from the Middle East and Africa. This will, of course, require countering the high and growing immigration pressure with all due energy.”

The German press has been publishing excerpts from the book for the past week and it has also interviewed Sarrazin himself, whose spoken statements only increase the frenzy. In a major interview for the Berliner Morgenpost on Sunday, Sarrazin stated glibly that “all Jews share a certain gene. Basques have certain genes that distinguish them from others.” Sarrazin’s critics from the left gleefully compare passages from Sarrazin’s book with strangely similar statements in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, particularly the Führer's infamous chapter on “Volk and Race.” But Sarrazin’s protests that “I am not a racist. When you read my book, you will know that I have traced the integration problems of Muslim immigrants in Europe to their Islamic cultural background.”

Karneval der Kulturen 
Berlin's popular annual Carneval of Cultures
in Berlin-Kreuzberg:
What's the point if Muslim women can only watch
from their apartment windows?
(Source: de.academic.ru)

Sarrazin himself has noted the irony in his position and his personal biography: His own family is descended from French Huguenot immigrants from Lyons. The name “Sarrazin,” a common one in southern France, in turn derives from the Saracens, Muslim Arab pirates who terrorized the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages. “As a young man, with a black mustache and thick hair, wearing a parka and jeans, I looked more Turkish than many Turks," he says. "I wouldn’t have stood out in [Berlin’s largely Turkish neighborhood of] Kreuzberg.”

The political and journalist reaction has been fierce, similar to that shown to Richard Herrnstein's and Charles Murray's comparable The Bell Curve in 1994. Chancellor Merkel is said to be outraged at Sarrazin’s provocation. SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel is pressing Sarrazin to resign from the SPD, whereas other forces are trying to get him fired from the board of the Deutsche Bank. The head of the German Central Council of Jews has sarcastically told him to go and join the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung columnist Frank Schirrmacher calls Sarrazin “the ghost writer of a frightened society.” The Mannheimer Morgen calls him "an intellectual arsonist." Azize and Gabriele Gün Tank, who are both integration officers in Berlin, have filed charges against him for “incitement of the people” and call him “a threat to democracy.” In the meantime, far-right politicians are eager to welcome him into their ranks. The anti-Islam “Pro Deutschland” organization, which runs candidates in the state of North Rhine Westphalia, has already offered him the chairmanship of their party.

Thilo Sarrazin 
Not a man to mince words
(Source: wiwo.de)

But the popular reaction has been remarkably positive. Just listen to any talk radio show, look at online message boards, or check out the readers’ responses on Amazon Books (42 people gave it 5 stars and only 10 gave it 1 star). Sarrazin, we learn, is “a man who tells unpopular truths,” “whom politicians fear because they want to win the next election.” Sarrazin “tells it like it is.” In short, he says what most people already think.

Sarrazin’s book fits into a recent pattern of hardening attitudes towards Muslim immigrants who fail to assimilate. The Scandinavian comic controversy, the burka ban in several European countries, the minaret ban in Switzerland, construction bans on various mosque projects across the continent, and a range of new books and initiatives are all evidence of a profound shift in opinion. In fact, the content of Sarrazin’s book is in no way original. What is unusual about it, however, is the depth and precision of its research and the respectability of its elitist author – who in his attitude and demeanor bears more than a superficial resemblance to Hjalmar Schacht, the respectable, progressive star economist who eventually joined Hitler’s Nazi government and helped transform the Third Reich into an economic and military power house. Ever since 1945, the far right has been kept away from power by its vulgarity more than anything else. An image makeover could change that.

Hjalmar Schacht 
"A fanatical bureaucrat" and "Mr. Respectability":
Reichsbank president and Nazi finance
minister Hjalmar Schacht (1877-1970)
(Source: Wiki Commons)

No, Sarrazin is no Nazi, although he and those who identify with him share the potential to develop into one of the classic definitions of a Nazi: a fanatical bureaucrat with a sense of mission. Because skinheads and storm troopers are not particularly dangerous in themselves. They are tools of those in power. It is nationalists equipped with power and brains who make an authoritarian order possible.

Am I exaggerating the potential threat emanating from Sarrazin’s book? Yes, I probably am. But history is a funny thing: you never know what will be considered important later on. And yet, it could be – it could just possibly be – that today, August 30, 2010, will at some far future date be remembered as the day when the European far right became respectable once more.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Alan, one of the things I appreciate most about your presence here is that you bring us stories, and a perspective, from Europe that we might not get otherwise. This was fascinating. The debate over Muslim assimilation will continue to be on the burner in Europe for a while, I am certain.
Thanks, Kathy.
No, I'm not saying that at all, but am merely concerned about the further ramifications. Actually, Sarrazin appears to be right in a lot of what he says. The issue for me is how these suggestions are implemented. I'm not sure it's possible without violence or some pretty serious struggles over resources - and I'm not talking about today, but several years ahead, in a new Europe we can't yet conceive of. So it's not so much a question of Sarrazin's ideas, but how others may run with them. Based on past experience, it could get ugly one of these days.

There is another major book on the market this summer, Berllin juvenile judge Kerstin Heisig's "The End of Patience" on youth criminality. I might get around to writing about it one days soon, since she covers some of the same territory. The book has been overshadowed somewhat by her mysterious "suicide," which seems extremely suspicious to me...

Thilo Sarrazin has become known as one of the most xenophobic politicians in Europe. You write as if you admire the guy.

Tell me Alan, do you keep your SS uniform in the closet, or do wear it out for full public display.
Alan, this piece deals seriously with a serious situation - rapidly becoming a major problem. Countries across Europe are dealing with this issue, and it's splitting the usual political alignments. We're seeing socialists, gay activists, feminists and other typically progressive voices take surprising positions.

I spend a fair amount of time in Europe, and keep my thoughts on multi-culturalism largely to myself. (I do think we do it a bit better on this side of the pond, for a few key reasons.)
you see what happens when you import cheap 'guest' labor: they stay, they want to be equals, they invite their cousins, before you know it they aren't cheap either. ahhh, capitalism.

btw, 'saracen' was a generic term for muslims on the mediterranean. those in north africa were often pirates, but those in the spanish caliphate were more commonly civilized past the level of the 'christian' lands that they tried to invade.
I'd like to add this small point into consideration. If Germans accepted many of the jobs they dish out to those workers, whom they dislike so much, those workers wouldn't be in Germany in the first place. They can attarct the kind of immigrant they want.
This is a huge struggle all over Europe and one that Americans don't really understand. We are a nation of immigrants that fled mostly from Europe, and brought our prejudices with us as we sought for our own freedom. But, as evidenced by the recent "rally" in DC, not all Americans believe in freedom, equality and democracy for all. So, we label people "unAmerican". However, Europeans more readily identify with their national identity as people of tribes and clans do all over the world. They recognize the importance of legislating equality and democracy, but these laws are recent and the veil of "unity" is rather thin. It's easy to point to the Nazi past of Germany, but there is a racist, nationalist agenda in virtually every country. Muslim immigration has had a huge impact, both positive and negative, on the identification of what it means to be European. Where does one draw the line? Race? Parenthood? Statehood? Culture? Language? Color? Religion? Dresscode? Education? Reproductive strategy? The Danes were struggling with muslim students getting ham banned from the public schools, when ham is one of the national foods. Who has the right to say no, to draw the lines of identity? These questions cannot be answered correctly, and anything honest is going to sound racist and hateful. Americans focus on the "current" radical Islam represented in the news, but forget about the millions of every day, non radical muslims who have peacefully immigrated to Europe, Canada, US (and elsewhere) after fleeing the economic ruins that European colonialization made of their own countries.
its good to see that besides the netherlands (geert wilders and his freedom party) the guys next door also wake up to the fact that muslims do not want to intergrate.
They want to force there ways up on us.
Check the stats of the crime levels among musling and non muslims in europe and you see what is going on.
@Oryoki Bowl

that depends on who you ask; to keep it in the proper context you need to ask the NATIVE americans and ask what happened to there culture rights ect.
Since they too experienced imigrants who did not want to adapt to there ways but forced the imigrant way up to the people who already lived there.
The problem is more and more people everywhere, and less and less pie! It manifests itself as migrations by the most fecund populations in passive-aggressive infiltration of less-peopled and thus wealthier lands to in turn convert all available bio-mass to human flesh, which after impoverishing each new land and finding still less pie, simply move on again.
People shouldn't behave like locusts.
Religion actually has a lot less or little to do with the problem as described.
That being said, I think its unfair for fellow liberals to accuse somebody of being a Nazi if they say immigration contributes to lower wages. In some instances, it can. Supply and Demand. If you double a supply, the price comes down. If I double the number of TVs on the market, the price will come down. Same goes for labor.

If you increase the amount of labor on the market, the going rate labor can demand for an hour's worth of work likewise is decreased, because there is more competition that is willing to work for a lower wage. The key, of course, are wage control laws.

I do not know if Germany has these. If it does, then this is the best argument the left can use against Xenophobes on the right. This is harder in the US, because big business does, in fact, use illegal immigrant labor as a pseudo-slave labor pool, both to weaken unions, minimize labor costs, and hurt the American worker.
PC aside, Muslim culture and the religion of Islam/Sharia is hoodwinking every culture and making them all "Stupider!" People just ignore this in light of being PC... Let's not upset anyone...
Must be related to Sloterdijk.

@Steven Rockford
"Tell me Alan, do you keep your SS uniform in the closet, or do wear it out for full public display."
The problem with the debate on immigration in Europe is that most of the time, it is quickly anaesthetized by some people who almost automatically accuse everybody of racism, sometimes on the mere ground of their having raised the issue. The same people often return into lovely homes in affluent quarters, whereas those who cannot afford to escape from poorer quarters like Berlin-Neukölln or northern Paris feel left alone with growing gratuitous violence, crime and also a certain feeling of cultural alienation. With or despite all the good intentions, the search for a good moral conscience leads into a denial of issues that are still real and thriving and will not be solved by wishing them away or looking elsewhere. I used to witness for years in France how a real debate hardly took place, whereas the problems kept smouldering in the suburbs until they spilled into the centres of the cities and could not be denied anymore. Two decades had been lost in the meantime that could have been spent on solving the issues instead of cultivating moral stances in the Parisian media landscape.

As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung pointed out last week, many people want to throw Sarrazin to the lions but few are actually challenging his statistics. Perhaps Sarrazin, with all the harshness and bluntness of what he writes and says, may lead, once the dust has settled, to a more sane and productive debate.

I do not really see the problems tied to religion, but rather to cultural differences. These are surmountable, provided there is a willingness to do so on both sides. The solutions are complex and will take time, so pragmatism and patience are required.

I found the comparison between Thilo Sarrazin and Hjalmar Schacht very interesting, although Sarrazin has more of the kind of provocateurs produced by the media age, and he does not advocate a regime change. The problem with the Sarrazin book and the like is that once again, commentators will see "evidence" for their "feeling" that there is "still something nazi" about Germany - without really thinking about what they are saying.

Once more, I found your post balanced and well researched and cannot understand the thoughtless remark of Steven Rockford. I have been reading your posts for quite some time now and have never seen the slightest hint at any sympathy for the extremes.
Thanks for your kind comments. The issue of urban living is interesting - the Berlin culture magazine Zitty has a feature on it this week - and is worth writing a blog post about. Inner city dwellers frequently claim to like immigrants, but make certain to send their kids to suburban or private schools. I did the same myself, by the way - when we all lived in Neukölln, I worked hard to send my kids to the German-American school in southwest Berlin since the local school on Sonnenallee had an appalling reputation (and looked terrible too).

By the way, Sarrazin had to cancel his first reading in Hildesheim today, the launch of his big book tour blitz, due to security threats. It promises to be an interesting autumn.
Wait, his last name is Sarrazin? That is hilarious and ironic. There are Sarrazins, Saracens, etc all over Europe... you know who they are?

The descendants of medieval Muslim immigrants!!!

Having said that, yes, Europe allowed in too many immigrants without being able to assimilate them, and it probably would be a good idea for them to slow down immigration and start working with the ones they have.
Well, I agree with him. It's not the 'race' of the Muslims he talks about, it's their culture that's the problem. Most Muslim cultures are backward, medieval and savage! They will cut off the hand of a thief, stone a woman to death for 'adultery', cut off the nose and ears of a young woman who tries to escape her abusive husband. I could go on, but you get the point. It's a sad thing that speaking these truths gets people labelled as racist, extremist, neo-nazi or worse. Political correctness will be the undoing of not just Europe, but all Western nations. Germany and other EU nations are acting like doormats, if they continue to hand out welfare checks to people who openly dispise them and hold them in contempt, instead of deporting them. The same should go for immigrants who commit violent crimes! Deport them!
Stelaa, that's because the "High" School in the US is a lot easier than the German "Gymnasium". Only the above average can even get and stay in and graduate (get the "Abitur"). You need the Abitur in germany to attend University. In the US a High School certificate suffices.
You seem to misunderstand the system of higher education in the US. While high school is not the equivalent of the German gymnasium, it's not meant to be. And one cannot be accepted to a university with simply a high-school degree (what you call a "certificate") - performance is important in determining to what schools you might be accepted. But there are many options for education after high school, ranging from career training up to the most exclusive and selective universities. Unlike in some European systems, no one level serves as a barrier to something else - if one performs poorly in high school, but then enrolls, in, say, a community college, at which one buckles down and excels, one can use that success to gain admission to a more selective college; success there might lead to graduate work and an advanced degree from a very presitigious private university, etc. Plus the state universities provide both lower costs and excellent educational opportunities. This abundance of opportunity serves well those who might have started slow (say, an immigrant still learning English), but prove to be determined and hard-working - which is at least part of Stelaa's point.
The Deutsch ist Giel poster is sexist. This guy mentions womens rights and Islam several times. Is he and others of his tribe really serious about promoting women's rights overall or this issue only raised to criticize Muslims?
Alan, I am working through some of your back numbers, and, as usual, I'll take what I learn from you straight into the classroom. The ignorance is profound. And I teach very both privileged students and also very large classes at a state university. Access to education is something they all take for granted. If only they knew, or listened to what I keep stressing: education allows them to learn about and from each other, and it is a privilege, not a right for many of their cohort elsewhere. Particularly for women. What has happened since? Your comparison to the infamous "Bell Curve" is apt. That miserable book did so much harm.
omigod, Muslims are dumb, criminal, and they breed too much!

No, this isn't just racism!

Spare me the polished-over anti-immigrant arguments.

And where is the sense of irony here? White Europeans are always complaining about how people from other cultures are the ones who are really violent. But who is bringing the violence to whom?

You would think Germans, in particular, might have some kind of lingering national memory about racist arguments and "othering" people of other cultures. And you know what, for the most part, Germans do.
It's unfortunate that people (both in the US and Europe) who think this way have not figured out that their immigration problem is directly linked to their lifestyles. The European Union buys the fishing rights from corrupt African countries and takes their fish, corrupt Italian companies pay to dump their toxic waste in the African desert, Europeans eat the chicken breast and floods the African market with the rest of the chicken at a lower price than domestic chicken. Dealing fairly with middle eastern and African countries and buying fairtrade items in the grocery store would go a long way in reducing the need for poor immigrants to search for work in abroad or resort to crime (piracy comes to mind).
Sadly, I expect more murders like that of Marwa Al-Sherbini after the publication of this book. I think his attitude and that of Gert and his like are the real reason why Turkey never was admitted to the EU. Sad, as they have a far more robust economy which would have helped the EU much more than some of the former USSR countries.