"We [the migrants] are tired of those who are hysterical and their myths, and we long for someone to give hope and strength. The migrants want their integration achievements or simply their work performance to be appreciated. Immigration is just a matter of heart. Nobody says that a few warm words would be ineffective."
(Feridun Zaimoglu, Mein Deutschland', Die Zeit, 12 April 2006)
Feridun Zaimoglu is a journalist and a writer. He was born in 1964 in Bolu in Turkey and grew up in Germany where he studied arts and medicine. Zaimoglu is one of the founding members of the movement Kanak Attak (www.kanak-attak.de). The organisation took its name from the title of Zaimoglu's 1995 book, 'Kanak Sprak', which consists of fictional interviews with young Turkish men in Germany. "Kanake", a pejorative term for foreign workers and immigrants, is now most frequently used against people of Arab or Turkish origin. "Kanak Attak's declared aim is to "eradicate racism from German society."
"Our common position consists of an attack against the 'Kanakisation' of specific groups of people through racist ascriptions which deny people their social, legal and political rights."
In 2006 Zaimoglu wrote "Leyla" (2006), a fictional counterpart to Necla Kelek's analysis of Turkish men and women in Germany, described in "Die fremde Braut" and "Die verlorenen Sohne". "Leyla" tells the story of a young woman raised in Turkey in a conservative family. The slow collapse of the traditional patriarchal family is at the heart of the book: children rebel against their authoritarian father; traditions like arranged marriage are overcome.
Zaimoglu complains about what he perceives as Necla Kelek's tendency to simplify the debate on such issues.
"In the statements of these women who frequently criticise Islam, it is only Islam which is blamed for problems – for me this is an incomprehensible, quite crude view of the world. It is not that simple. … You should not act as if the Islam debate is an apocalyptical battle between good and bad where the goal is to beat the evil orthodox antagonists, because they stand for everything which cannot be integrated."
Zaim Zaimoglu was initially one of the non-affiliated Muslims who participated in the German Islam Conference when it was launched in 2006. He criticised the fact that not a single woman taking part in the conference was wearing a headscarf:
"If the Islam Conference wants to be a democratic forum, it cannot leave out young religious women who have confidently decided to wear a headscarf and who see themselves as German Muslims. In this community there is anger at the German Islam Conference … It is likely that one does not want them [women wearing a headscarf] to participate because they do not fit the picture. The composition [of the German Islam Conference] – on the one side orthodox men, on the other side secularised women – produces a very simplistic image of Islam. This plays right into the hands of those who like to divide the world into good and bad … Women like Necla Kelek question the democratic intentions of these neo-Muslim women. Politics seems to follow this view."
(Feridun Zaimoglu, interview in Berliner Zeitung, 25 April 2007)
In addition to his work as an author, Zaimoglu also provokes with visual art. In March 2005, he carried out a "flag installation" at the Kunsthalle in Vienna under the title 'Kanak Attack. Die dritte Turkenbelagerung' (Kanak Attack. The third Turkish siege). As intended, it triggered strong reactions from right wing politicians.
Articles in English
Feridun Zaimoglu's books dealing with Turks in Germany and integration are available in German only:
In summer 2008 Zaimoglu released a CD featuring interviews with young Muslim women in Germany: Feridun Zaimoglu, Gunter Senkel, Schwarze Jungfrau, Audio CD
The German debate