"إذا وصل اليمين المتطرف إلى السلطة، سأهاجر"… ناخبون عرب والانتخابات البرلمانية الألمانية
Arabs in the Federal Republic of Germany are facing many challenges, the top of which include racism, immigration laws, as well as processes of integration into German society, since some feel that they are not accepted by society, for social, religious, or racist ideological reasons. Whereas politicians vary between those who see Arabs - or foreigners - as a threat to German society and that their presence must be limited, and between others who see that they are a quality addition to society, believing in the humanitarian principle that calls for their assimilation, and provides opportunities for them to integrate and serve the community.
In Germany, more than 60 million people have the right to vote, and more than 12% of these voters are of immigrant origins. Half of them are Arabs and at the same time, there are also Arab candidates for the elections. What are the concerns of the Arab voters about the upcoming German parliamentary elections (Bundestag), which will be held on the 26th of September, and what are some of the candidates calling for?
“We Don’t Agree with its Foreign Policies”
The opinions of those of Arab origin with the right to propose in the German elections vary. Dr. Najat Abdul Haq from Berlin, a Palestinian-German academic, believes that what interests her in the German elections come in three dimensions: “The first dimension is the city that we live in, which faces great challenges that we did not know of before, such as the availability of housing, and those that have t0 do with the public space, as a Palestinian person, so the electoral vote depends on what it is we want to change. Elections are a way to express discontent, demand change, or work towards change. As for the second dimension, it is at the state level, and here the expectations are very difficult, because the next political leaders that follow Angela Merkel - regardless of which parties will win - are all weak leaderships, since they come in the wake of the powerful rule of a German Chancellor who has dominated the German political scene for 16 years. The third dimension has to do with the country’s foreign policies, such as Germany’s movements toward Afghanistan, which were very negative, and Germany’s policy toward immigrants, which is changing in a harsh and indirect way. All of this affects our voting choices, our expectations, and how we balance these three dimensions.”
What are the concerns of the Arab voters about the upcoming German parliamentary elections (Bundestag), and what are some of the candidates calling for?
She adds, “There are fears regarding these elections, as we are coming up on a political phase that will not be easy, and a political vacuum that will have an impact on German policies. With regards to German foreign policies - part of which includes Germany’s relations with Israel which won’t change and is considered an eternal constant - this is a challenge for us as German Arabs, and how to deal with this issue. Germany is a democratic country, and it offers us many opportunities, and we have rights, but we do not agree with it when it comes to its foreign policies.”
"Empty Promises to Muslims and People of Color"
Political activist Mohammad Shahrour, who is active in the fight against racial profiling, prejudice and discrimination against immigrant communities in Berlin - and specifically in the Neukölln district of Berlin - particularly within the context of the so-called “clan criminality” (crime families), does not expect much from these elections. Speaking to Raseef22, he said, “To be honest, I don’t expect much. The elections will not make any real difference to the lives of people with darker skin or Muslim communities. We see plenty of promises and discussions, and some parties believe that it is enough to just appoint a candidate of immigrant origins here, and another there. However, the political agenda does not offer any real changes, or advantages, to Muslims or people of color. I know candidates of Muslim origins that visit almost every shop, bakery, or store in their constituency, but they exclude mosques, or Muslim communities, because they fear being attacked by the German press.”
Shahrour calls on German politicians, for a personal exchange between the candidates and the voters, and that this not just be limited to the six weeks ahead of the elections that are usually accompanied by nice words and empty promises. He adds, “I demand that veiled women be able to teach in German schools and be able to get a job. We support Americans when it comes to liberating Afghan women, but we deprive Muslim German women from realizing their dreams, and their selves. What hypocrisy is this. We have to end the so-called law of neutrality. It is an anti-Muslim woman law, for it is everything but ‘neutrality’. It is discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities.”
Shahrour worries that the center and left parties will turn to legislation that are more right-wing, due to pressures of the extreme right parties, which he does not believe will reach power directly.
Arabs in Germany face many challenges: Instilled racism, immigration laws and integration into society. Politicians vary between those who see Arabs - or foreigners - as a threat to German society to those who see them as a good addition to society.
“The Right to Display One’s Identity Without Fear”
Najeeb Abu Shakra, a German of Arab descent who works in the health sector, is voting for the first time as a new German citizen. That is why he is currently trying to get to know the various candidate parties closely; each one’s agenda, ideology, and future plans.
In an interview with Raseef22, he says, “Being an Arab, and an Israeli citizen - that is, I belong to an Arab minority that suffers from political decisions aimed at stifling freedoms, progress, and development inside Israel - I am waiting on the opposite from the German elections. My demands are the demands of every human being who wants to work, live on equal footing with others, and live freely with the right to freedom of expression, the right to choose the proper work and place for me, and especially the right to display one’s sexual identity without fear.”
Abu Shakra hopes that there will be a special program for integrating the Arab community into German society, emphasizing freedoms, and accepting the other from both ends. He is also interested in issues like pension and retirement taxes - of which he believes it is necessary to raise the minimum pension salary and reduce housing rents - in addition to the issue of preserving the environment and the climate, as strict penalties must be imposed in this regard.”
Fears of the Far Right
In an interview with Raseef22, German engineer of Egyptian origin Mohamed al-Najdi, says, “I am waiting on the elections for an increase in voting participation from society, and for the Alternative for Germany party (AFD) to leave parliament. On the social level, I also wish for the respect for freedom of religion, that laws are issued to operationalize this and recognize the Islamic faith. I also hope that laws are issued to protect veiled women from the denial of access to jobs in the public or private sector - or jobs in the state - and for the support of traditional families (man/woman/child), as well as a speedy process for recognizing refugees and expelling those who commit crime, without exception.”
He adds, “Regarding foreign policy, I hope for the improvement of the services of German embassies in Arab countries, the facilitation and expedition of issuing visas to relatives of German citizens of the first and second degrees, respecting the principles of democracy, and not recognizing the legitimacy of coup governments in the Arab world - or at least not cooperating with them - in addition to independence from US foreign policy and the strengthening of the European Union and the German army as well.”
Al-Najdi expressed his fears of the extreme right coming to power, saying, “If that happens, I will leave.”
“Dealing with the Palestinian Cause Objectively”
German-Egyptian engineer Youssef el-Siddiq is waiting on the upcoming elections for a left-wing government that will prevent discrimination based on religious dress and will pay attention to digital transformation. He also stated in an interview with Raseef22 that he wants to see the new government strengthen the public transportation network, lower its cost, reduce the prices of rent, provide opportunities for building homes, and allow for multiple citizenship.
The engineer believes that the most important foreign policy dossier is the Palestinian cause, “I hope that Germany will rid itself from living in the shadows of its bad past, deal with this cause in an objective and fair manner - and with no double standards - and intensify its efforts to support minorities in the world. I hope that Germany continues to open up and accept the idea that it is a multi-ethnic country.”
Any new German government must overcome the long-standing delusion of previous German governments which says that oppressive regimes can be pillars of stability, or even strategic partners for Germany.
Supporting Despotism and Authoritarianism
In its foreign policies, Germany supports many countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, although they differ when it comes to human rights files, freedoms, and minorities, among others. On this, Executive Director of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Germany, Christian Mihr, tells Raseef22, “The Middle East and the North Africa region includes many countries that have had a poor record in freedom of the press for a long time. I list some countries for example that include - but are not limited to - Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Saudi Arabia, to name a few, without forgetting Syria. Any new German government must overcome the long-standing delusion of previous German governments which says that oppressive regimes, such as Saudi Arabia or Egypt, can be pillars of stability, or even strategic partners for Germany in the region, as this policy has stabilized and strengthened authoritarians who are enemies to freedom of the press, and nothing more.”
What are Arab Candidates Calling for?
“Calling for equal rights between immigrants and German citizens”; This is the campaign slogan of Mohammad Tawil Malik, candidate in the upcoming German elections for members of parliament and editor-in-chief of al-Madina magazine in Germany. He is a German of Lebanese origin, who, according to what he told Raseef22, has extensive relations with everything that has to do with Arab and Turkish communities and organizations in terms of social, economic, cultural, and living conditions.
Tawil Malik, who is a candidate for the Marxist–Leninist Party of Germany MLPD, says, “Immigrants work, pay taxes and abide by their duties, but they do not have the right to vote, and choose who represents them, or their candidate, unless they have German citizenship, while European citizens who live in Germany have the right to participate in the elections just like a regular German citizen. That is why I am focusing on integration and diversity in my electoral program, as I see myself as a bridge between cultures, and therefore I am calling for unity and cohesion as one German society of different backgrounds.”
Tawil Malik stated that there are more than seven million Germans of immigrant origins who have the right to vote in the 2021 parliamentary elections. This category represents approximately 10% of the total voters in Germany, whom he calls on to have full active political participation, in a major, effective, and serious way.
German candidate Ayman Thebian, who is also of Lebanese origin, is running as an independent candidate for parliament, and his electoral program also focuses on the Arab community. In an interview with Raseef22, he says, “It is possible to work on developing and improving some immigration laws and procedures for the benefit of immigrants with higher levels of education, as well as those with skills and craftsmanship, such as factory workers and construction workers. In addition, work must be done to combat racism against the Arabs in German society, so that we can reach common solutions for all components of society.”
Thebian believes that the German media practices religious discrimination against certain groups and categories, adding, “Unfortunately, there are certain things in the religion and religiosity of only immigrant communities that are greatly highlighted, and this must change. We must talk to them and reduce the impact of religious extremism and religious discrimination. We must hold panel discussions and information seminars to clarify the impact of this on society in general.”