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Peter Schneider
Peter Schneider

Peter Schneider, born in 1940, is a German author and visiting professor at many prestigious US universities. He was active in the student movement of the 1960s and wrote speeches for SPD politicians during the election campaign in 1965. Peter Schneider's texts are a mixture of politics and literature. His focus is very often on the experience of the 1968 generation, as in "Lenz" (1973). He recently published an autobiographical novel, "Rebellion and delusion" ("Rebellion und Wahn").

In 2005 Peter Schneider published an essay outlining his belief that the German debate on integration and Islam was changing, particularly in Berlin. In "The New Berlin Wall", Schneider argued:

"There is a new wall rising in the city of Berlin. To cross this wall you have to go to the city's central and northern districts – to Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Wedding – and you will find yourself in a world unknown to the majority of Berliners. Until recently, most Berliners held to the illusion that living together with some 300,000 Muslim immigrants and children of immigrants was basically working."

Kreuzberg + İstanbul = Kreuztanbul. Photo: flickr/ Ozan™

But this consensus was wrong:

"When a broader German public began concerning itself with the parallel Muslim world arising in its midst, it was primarily thanks to three female authors, three rebellious Muslim musketeers: Ates, who in addition to practicing law is the author of "The Great Journey Into the Fire"; Necla Kelek ("The Foreign Bride"); and Serap Cileli ("We're Your Daughters, Not Your Honor"). About the same age, all three grew up in Germany; they speak better German than many Germans and are educated and successful. But they each had to risk much for their freedom …. Taking off from their own experiences, the three women describe the grim lives and sadness of Muslim women in that model Western democracy known as Germany."

Turkish people in Kreuzberg near Kottbusser Tor. Photo: flickr/ Pim Rupert

Schneider credits the writing of Seyran Ates, Necla Kelek and others with breaking taboos. Their books “tell us what Germans like me didn't care to know.”

“What they report seems almost unbelievable. They describe an everyday life of oppression, isolation, imprisonment and brutal corporal punishment for Muslim women and girls in Germany, a situation for which there is only one word: slavery.

Seyran Ates estimates that perhaps half of young Turkish women living in Germany are forced into marriage every year. In the wake of these forced marriages often come violence and rape; the bride has no choice but to fulfill the duties of a marriage arranged by her parents and her in-laws. One side effect of forced marriage is the psychological violation of the men involved. Although they are the presumed beneficiaries of this custom, men are likewise forbidden to marry whom they want. A groom who chooses his own wife faces threats, too. In such cases, according to Seyran Ates and Serap Cileli, the groom as well as the bride must go underground to escape the families' revenge.

Heavily veiled women wearing long coats even in summer are becoming an increasingly familiar sight in German Muslim neighborhoods. According to Necla Kelek's research, they are mostly under-age girls who have been bought – often for a handsome payment – in the Turkish heartland villages of Anatolia by mothers whose sons in Germany are ready to marry. The girls are then flown to Germany, and "with every new imported bride," Kelek says, "the parallel society grows."

Suggested readings

  • Peter Schneider, The New Berlin Wall, New York Times Magazine, 4 December 2005
  • English Articles
  • The Wall Jumper, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983)
  • The German Comedy (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1991)
  • Couplings (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1996)
  • Eduard's Homecoming (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000)
  • Lenz, in Three Contemporary German Novellas (New York: The German Library, 2001).
  • Official website:

November 2010

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