21.4.2015 | Von:
Naika Foroutan


The heterogeneous society in the immigration country Germany is characterized by negotiation processes. Affiliations, national identity and participation are renegotiated and adjusted. This process is accompanied by social tensions and raises the question how social coherence can be guaranteed against the backdrop of increasing diversity.

Grundschule in Berlin-NeuköllnPrimary school in the Neukölln district of Berlin. (© picture-alliance/Tagesspiegel)

"We are Christians, we are Muslims, we are Jews, we are Charlie!" said the banners held by the people in front of the Brandenburg Gate on January 11, 2015. They had gathered for a vigil to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris four days earlier. Radical Islamist extremists had killed twelve people inside and outside the editorial office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo as well as a police officer on the street and four other people in a Jewish grocery store. The solemn vigil was organized by the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) and the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD) to promote tolerance, freedom of expression and human rights as well as to protest religious fanaticism and to clarify that the murderers did not act on behalf of Muslims but as representatives of a radical ideology. It is an ideology that promotes itself as the true Islam and for years has therefore marginalized countless Muslims as not belonging to the faith and legitimized their killing. Studies show that the overwhelming majority of victims of Islamist terrorism are themselves Muslims[1]. While in Western countries that have large immigrant populations and are partially affected by Islamist terrorism fear often causes people to blame Islam itself for terrorist attacks, Muslims clearly position themselves against this opinion and refuse to equate Islam with Islamist terrorism. Aiman Mazyek, Secretary General of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, took a clear stand in his speech, saying, "With their deeds, the assassins have committed the greatest blasphemy. They have betrayed Islam with their terrible act and dragged it through the mud. Today, we unequivocally address all terrorists: We will not allow our faith to be abused. We will commit ourselves even more strongly to further this Germany of ours. Today we take a firm stand and commit ourselves against hatred and violence. What unites us is our opposition to violence and intolerance. We all are Germany!"[2] The Coordinating Council of Muslims in Germany (KRM) and the Shiite umbrella organization (IGS) forcefully condemned the attacks and expressed their sympathy for the bereaved.

While these clear positions and reflections on reform and Koranic interpretations within Islam show that the Muslim world is negotiating a wide range of interpretations and a struggle for interpretational sovereignty, the wave of anti-Islamic, nationalistic and right-wing populist demonstrations that, disguised as strolls, has been ongoing for several months under the name PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) and consists of a heterogeneous citizens’ movement against foreign infiltration is continuing to swell. Even if this movement is no longer asserting itself quite as strongly on the streets, its development has revealed the dynamics that anti-Islamic and xenophobic positions can generate and the extent to which national self-image is expressed as a force in opposition to Islam and Muslims, who are the current stand-ins for all foreigners and migrants.

If we retrospectively analyze the German conception of integration, we can see that integration efforts have focused exclusively on migrants and their descendants for too long. The fact that whole segments of the majority population have drifted out of focus and have been unable to keep up with the country's new cultural identity has not been perceived and discussed in terms of social disintegration. Politics has failed to provide this new heterogeneous Germany with a narrative (see box on narratives for a definition) that could have served as a guide for action. The idea of migration as exceptional and an emergency response has been maintained despite the fact that, in Germany, migration has been part of the family background of one in three children for a long time – and they are no less German for it.



Narratives are stories or their structures that concern communities and are reproduced across time and space. They are not necessarily based on empirical facts but may be based on interpretations that only arise retrospectively or with a view toward a future goal. They acquire legitimacy and influence political action based on the assumption that they have always existed in this form*. Their function is to construct a collective memory and thus to construct past and present reality**. They are "central to the representation of identity, to individual remembering, to the collective well-being of groups, regions, nations, to ethnic and gender identity."***

* See Foroutan (2014).
** See Klein/ Martínez (2009).
*** Müller-Funk (2008), p. 17.
How do we want to (and how can we) live together in a society characterized by diversity? This is one of the central issues suggested by the developments of recent years, during which Germany has become a country of immigration – not only empirically but also narratively. This raises the question of how the concept of integration can be rethought in a heterogeneous society characterized by cultural, ethnic, religious and national diversity, and pluralistic approaches to life.

This text is part of the policy brief Integration in a Post-Migrant Society.


www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/terrorreport-al-qaida-toetet-achtmal-mehr-muslime-als-nicht-muslime-a-660420.html (accessed: 2-17-2015).
The full speech can be found at: http://islam.de/26019 (accessed: 2-17-2015).
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