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If this is ‘freedom of speech’…

sarrazin-quitsThe London School of Economics has seen it fit to invite Thilo Sarrazin to a debate tomorrow as part of this year’s ‘German Symposium’. Sarrazin recently made waves with his book, ‘Deutschland schafft sich ab’ (‘Germany does away with itself’), a rant on how Germany is being ruined by immigrants. he has also said that all ‘Jews share a certain gene’. Sarrazin certainly strengthened German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her remarks in October that attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany had ‘utterly failed. Merkel’s anti-multiculturalist stance, although hardly new, gave renewed succour to David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, both of whom have joined her in speaking out about the dangers of multiculturalism as they see it in recent days.

German academics and students in the UK have written an open letter in protest against Sarrazin’s invitation to an event under the banner of ‘free speech’. The ‘freedom’ to peddle racism is not free: it runs a high cost for those on the receiving end. Please join us in protesting this by signing the petition and/or joining the Facebook group.

Read on for the open letter sent to the LSE by Germans in the UK.



We are irritated by the invitation extended to Mr. Thilo Sarrazin and Mr. Henryk M. Broder to sit on the panel of the opening event of this year’s “German Symposium” at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on 14 February 2011, which is entitled ‘Integration Debate: Europe’s Future – “Decline of the West”?’. Both authors have severely harmed the debate and by this poisoned the social peace in Germany. The panel’s title draws on slogans alluding to an alleged clash of cultures, while the invitation of a representative of the Muslim community in Germany falsely directs the discussion’s attention to a religious minority.

The public statements made by Mr. Sarrazin and Mr. Broder distort causalities and disregard central causes of this challenge affecting all of society. Regarding these challenges, research on migration and integration has repeatedly identified socio-economic factors as their prime causes. However, Mr. Sarrazin and Mr. Broder argue that there exists a pathological unwillingness among minorities in Germany (in particular Muslims) to integrate into society, claiming that religious and cultural background account for this alleged lack. Mr. Sarrazin goes as far as to ‘link genetics and culture’ (Frank Schirrmacher, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 29 August 2010).

Addressing the challenges facing our immigrant society requires a future-oriented debate, which offers solutions to pressing concerns. Such a debate must be conducted rationally and make use of the findings of scientific research. Across Germany, a variety of programmes is being successfully implemented on the political level. These address in particular the equality of access to education and the labour market, and thereby aim to foster an understanding which mandates that efforts be taken collectively. On the other hand, the defeatist and culturalist argumentation found in publications in Germany such as Mr. Sarrazin’s Germany Does Away With Itself (2010) and Mr. Broder’s Hurray, We Capitulate! (2006) leads to division rather than understanding, while equally lacking any serious suggestion aimed at overcoming societal problems. The stigmatization of certain social groups by Mr. Sarrazin threatens social harmony and social cohesion; the secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany characterized public statements made by Mr. Sarrazin as ‘racist’ and aiming for ‘lowest instincts’ (Stephan J. Kramer, Der Tagesspiegel 13 October 2009). Both, Mr. Sarrazin and Mr. Broder, warn of an allegedly looming Islamization of Europe and thereby join a group of Islamophobic publicists and politicians across the continent.

Naturally, every debate must be conducted critically and aim to include all constructive views which seek a resolution of the matter at hand. It is equally obvious that human dignity is to be respected at all times. In light of his empirically falsified and provocative statements and publications, which in parts incite racial hatred, Mr. Sarrazin in particular has disqualified himself for such a rational, constructive debate. Mr. Broder, as can be deduced from his public statements and writings, is equally disinterested in holding a beneficial debate.

As German students and academics living in the UK, we are vehemently opposed that the integration debate, which will open this year’s “LSE German Week”, draws on these provocateurs – the programme initially listed them as ‘iconic public figures’ – instead of on acknowledged experts.

The LSE is rightly considered to be among the world’s leading social science universities, which prides itself with its open-mindedness and its international student body. Therefore, the university’s German Society should aim to represent a modern, progressive and open-minded Germany, which is fit to face the challenges of the 21st century. We therefore criticize that the polemical, socially divisive and non-scientific theses of Mr. Sarrazin and Mr. Broder are given a prominent platform on an overall inadequately staffed panel.

Alana Lentin