The Church Jesus Built, German version

What Happens After Death?, German version

Is The Bible True?, German version

Heaven or Hell?, German version

Bible Prophecy, German version

Turkish prime minister in Germany: calm and controversy

February 15, 2008: Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan was both praised and criticized during his visit to Germany after the fire in an apartment building in Ludwigshafen that killed nine Turks. The fire on February 3rd had Turkish newspapers writing about arson as a possible cause and wondering whether the fire department in Ludwigshafen had responded quickly enough to the blaze. Dramatic film footage of the fire showed parents throwing an infant out of an upstairs window to save the child's life.

With emotions running high, Erdogan visited Ludwigshafen four days after the catastrophe. 2500 gathered in a public square to hear him speak. One person in the crowd held a sign with the words "Yesterday the Jews, today the Muslims", implying that the fire was deliberately set. Erdogan's speech had a calming effect. He said that Germans and Turks were united in their sorrow and thanked the German authorities for their quick response to the fire. Germany's interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble later defended Erdogan, praising his "considerable contribution to deescalation" of the tense situation.

Two days after his visit to Ludwigshafen, Erdogan's speech officially opened the annual Munich Conference on Security. As his foreign minister had done two weeks earlier in Davos, Erdogan rejected the notion that Turkey would accept a "privileged partnership" as an alternative to full membership in the European Union. "We know where we want to be," he emphasized, "and that is full membership." In a reference to negotiations, Erdogan said that it is unfair to change the rules once the game has started. He described Islam as a religion of "peace and tolerance", a different viewpoint than the one expressed by Pope Benedict in September 2006.

In a later speech at the conference, Christian Socialist Union (CSU) party leader Erwin Huber responded to Erdogan's remarks, emphasizing that his concerns about full membership for Turkey were not intended to discriminate against Turks. According to Huber, the EU has only a limited capability to integrate new members, which is the main reason for his desire to see Turkey accept the offer of a "privileged partnership".

The next day Erdogan spoke before a packed house at the Cologne Arena. 16,000 Turks from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands filled the arena to hear his plea not to lose their Turkish identity. According to Erdogan, integration is acceptable, but assimilation into the host country's society is not. After the speech, German news media wondered why Erdogan doesn't accept a similar status for the Kurdish minority in Turkey.

Erdogan had earlier voiced support for having Turkish-language schools and even a university in Germany. His speech in Cologne drew strong criticism from party leaders across the political spectrum in Germany and again heightened concerns about a "parallel society" of Muslims coexisting in Germany with German society.

Erdogan's speech prompted CSU leader Erwin Huber to call for a review of negotiations on Turkish EU membership. Some might see Huber's approach as a populist tactic, but the fear of a "parallel society" of Muslims in Germany may be deeper than some analysts realize. Conservative observers caution that the general direction in Turkey is toward a more religious society, citing the recent change in Turkey to allow female students to wear the Muslim head covering at Turkish universities. The dust raised by Erdogan's visit to Germany appears to cloud the issue of Turkish EU membership.


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