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Claus Leggewie
Claus Leggewie

"For the German Turks it is finally clear: they will stay here. They are no second-class 'alien fellow-citizens' anymore. They ask for equal political rights, social integration and cultural autonomy. Islam, to which most of them belong, has become the second European religion."       

(Claus Leggewie, "Deutsche Turken, Turk Almanlar," p.131)

If there is one German intellectual who is associated with a principled defence of multi-culturalism, it is Claus Leggewie. Born in 1950, Leggewie wrote his PhD on French colonial policies in Algeria under the guidance of Bassam Tibi. Although others – including former CDU General Secretary Heiner Geissler and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Green MEP – have defended multiculturalism in Germany, few have done so as consistently as Leggewie, who has alsoworked on migration and globalisation, German politics after 1945, and digital communication. He is also the co-editor of Blatter fur deutsche und internationale Politik (Sheets for German and international affairs), a political monthly.

Leggewie sees Germany changing as the root cause of some unease:

"The construction of mosques is a visible sign that Islam has arrived in Germany and that in the long run a lot of Muslims want to live their religion here. Exactly this demonstration of a decision to settle scares many citizens and leads to resistance."

(WDR 15 June 2007)

In fact, already in 1993, Leggewie and Zafer Senocak published "Deutsche Turken-Turk Almanlar", a key book on multiculturalism. In its foreword Leggewie writes that the book "makes the case that one can become German and remain Turk." ("Deutsche Turken, Turk Almanlar," p. 8)

Leggewie puts forward "ten commandments" for Turkish-German relations. These include proposals for easier naturalisation so that children born in Germany acquire German citizenship. He also advocates the right to stand in local elections for Turkish citizens living in Germany for a long time, better protection against discrimination, better vocational education for young migrants, and a joint effort to address the needs of older migrants. He pins his hopes for the future of German society on the children of Turkish migrants.

"One does not have to watch the emergence of a Turkish sub-proletariat inactively; and the problem of highly visible violent criminality among a small minority of German-Turkish youth cannot be solved by threatening deportation. Those who only see the mafia-like drop-outs and fanatic fundamentalists … ignore the optimism, the power of innovation and the imagination of the children and grandchildren of Turkish migrants."

("Deutsche Turken, Turk Almanlar", p. 133)

Leggewie also argues for cultural autonomy for ethnic minorities. He refers to the agreement made between Germany and Poland in 1991. Why should German Turks not have the same guarantees that have been extended to Germans living in Poland? He cites Article 20 of the agreement:

"[the right to] freely express, as an individual or in a community with other members of the group, their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity, to preserve and develop it; free from any attempts to become assimilated against their will."

(Claus Leggewie, "Deutsche Turken, Turk Almanlar", p. 135)

He also calls for an institutionalisation of the Islamic community.

"There must be institutional consultations between the German cultural administrations and every Islamic association to enable a constitutional Islamic religious education and to solve school conflicts stemming from the absence of an approach towards Islam. In doing so the rules of a secular state and the guaranteed freedom of religion must apply. The Islamic rite, which is seen by the majority of German Turks as non-integrative, has to come out of its niche, where fundamentalist radicalization is prospering."

 (Claus Leggewie, 'Deutsche Turken, Turk Almanlar', p. 134)

In a 2002 essay, historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler put forward the argument that Christian/Occidental culture and Islam were incompatible. The article provoked a heated debate, including a reply by Leggewie:

"[Wehler] makes two principal mistakes. First, he fails to see the growing heterogeneity among Turkish migrants. Second, he Islamises Turkey – thus Christianising the European Union … Europe's identity has always been both eccentric and inclusive. EU citizenship can be based only on the acceptance of the European treaties and a (future) European constitution, not on any substantial quality, which might, or not, be found exclusively among Europeans. European identity is to be found in its future. Europe's borders and its necessary exclusivity are determined by this political non-identity, not by the rejection of Islam, which, following mass immigration, has become part of Europe and which has an opportunity to modernise especially here."

(Claus Leggewie, 'Fundamental ruckstandig',, 22 November 2002)

Suggested readings

The two most important texts authored by Leggewie are in German only:

Other publications:

Essays and Articles in English:

  • Claus Leggewie, Transnational Citizenship, Cultural Concerns, in: International Encyclopaedia of the Social & Behavioural Sciences 2003, pp. 15857-15862
  • Claus Leggewie, How Turks Became Kurds, Not Germans, in: Dissent, Vol. 43 (1996), No. 3 (Summer 1996).

To read more about different views on multiculturalism the following publications of different authors we recommend:

November 2010

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