To Veil or not to Veil: Germany and Islam
Kamakshi P. Murti (Middlebury College, Vermont, USA) [BIO]
At the turn of the 19th century, Germany imported larger numbers of Polish workers to work in the mining sector. Millions of foreign workers came as able-bodied men from Nazi Germany's occupied territories and were forced to work in the German heavy manufacturing sector during World War II. Since the mid-1950s, Germany has become one of the most important destination countries for immigrants. Despite this, Germans insist to this day on the myth of ethnic homogeneity.
The Turks as the largest group of minorities are the most controversial amongst all minorities because of their perceived “otherness,” exacerbated by the events of 9.11. Interestingly, it is their affinity to Christianity and Judaism (Islam is after all the third Abrahamic religion) that threatens the ability of the German to form a singular identity. The demonization of Islam is a result of ignorance and fear. Interviews I recently conducted with Turkish and Kurdish women who had returned from Germany to Turkey revealed a lot of misconceptions on both sides about their belief and value systems.
In my paper, I will share the various strategies I use in the German classroom to enable students to read all texts (by the dominant and minority cultures) with an open mind. A course I taught recently entitled: “To Veil or not to Veil: Islam and Germany” deconstructed the mythical homogeneity that the term “Germanness” evokes. Using a pedagogy called “Deliberative Dialogs,” I allowed the students to discover their own voices in discussing identity issues, with me as facilitator. They debated the necessity of active participation on the part of migrants in their integration into Germany’s pluralistic society, understood as civic culture, by adjusting their religious or cultural identity to the demands of a modern civic culture. They recognized that migration effects not only identity formations of immigrants, but also of the cultures that receive immigrants as part of global migration flows. They concluded that Germans ought to rethink their cultural identity and familiarize themselves with the cultural experiences newcomers to German society can provide.