| BERLIN, Sept 2
BERLIN, Sept 2 German central banker Thilo
Sarrazin has divided public opinion with remarks about Muslim
immigrants and comments about the genetic make-up of Jews,
prompting calls for him to step down.
Leading politicians have called for the Bundesbank to
dismiss the 65-year-old, who has dominated headlines in the
public furore surrounding the launch of his book, "Deutschland
schafft sich ab" (Germany does away with itself).
The Bundesbank has met to discuss Sarrazin's fate this week,
but has yet to announce a formal decision.
Following are some questions and answers about the case and
why it has sparked such outcry in Germany.
WHAT CAUSED THE CONTROVERSY?
Much of the anger has focused on a chapter in the book
Sarrazin devotes to immigrants and their integration in Germany,
whose population is ageing and shrinking. Excerpts from the book
featured in German media include the following:
"In every European country, due to their low participation
in the labour market and high claim on state welfare benefits,
Muslim migrants cost the state more than they generate in added
economic value. In terms of culture and civilisation, their
notions of society and values are a step backwards."
"I don't want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to
live in a mostly Muslim country where Turkish and Arabic are
widely spoken, women wear headscarves and the day's rhythm is
determined by the call of the muezzin."
"If the birth rate of migrants remains higher than that of
the indigenous population, within a few generations, the
migrants will take over the state and society."
"I don't want us to end up as strangers in our own land, not
even on a regional basis."
"From today's perspective, the immigration of guest workers
in the 1960s and 1970s was a gigantic mistake."
The remarks were not the first time Sarrazin has offended
Muslims. Last year he was stripped of some of his duties at the
Bundesbank after comments in a magazine interview:
"I don't need to accept anyone who lives off the state,
rejects this country ... and is always producing little girls
with headscarves. This is true of 70 percent of the Turkish and
90 percent of the Arab population of Berlin," he said.
On Sunday, the day before his book was officially published,
Sarrazin drew complaints with musings about Jews.
"All Jews share a particular gene, Basques share a certain
gene that sets them apart," he told paper told Welt am Sonntag.
WHAT WAS THE REACTION?
Chancellor Angela Merkel, senior ministers and all of
Germany's main political parties have rebuked Sarrazin, who
belongs to the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). The SPD has
begun proceedings to throw him out of the party.
Muslim, Christian and Jewish groups have condemned Sarrazin,
saying his words -- which have won praise from far-right parties
in Germany and abroad -- risk inflaming racial tensions and
On Thursday, a U.S. Holocaust survivors' group said it would
lobby German embassies worldwide for the ex-finance minister of
the city state of Berlin to be fired. [ID:nLDE6810C3]
Supporters say Sarrazin has broken a taboo on the impact of
immigration by highlighting painful truths, and bringing
attention to the issue with his confrontational style.
But many advocates of improving integration say Sarrazin has
made it harder to hold objective debate on the matter by
polarising opinion and obscuring the facts with disputed claims.
Recent polls show Germans are divided about whether Sarrazin
should be dismissed from the Bundesbank. [ID:nLDE6801ZT]
IS IT EASY TO FIRE BUNDESBANK BOARD MEMBERS?
No. The Bundesbank's statutes are designed to ensure its
independence from the government and shield it from political
This means Merkel's coalition cannot sack Bundesbank board
members and even the bank itself would find this difficult.
Sarrazin can only be dismissed if there is evidence of serious
misconduct, yet what constitutes this is not clearly defined.
Some legal experts say it may suffice to show the economist has
damaged the bank's reputation.
If the bank's board elects to dismiss him, the decision must
be approved by German President Christian Wulff. German media
have speculated Sarrazin could fight his removal in court.
Sarrazin and the bank have argued his theories are his
personal opinion and are not linked to his work at the bank.
However, officials like Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
say Sarrazin has hurt Germany's reputation and Wulff himself has
urged the Bundesbank to take action.
WHY DOES IT MATTER TO GERMANY?
Since Nazi Germany carried out the extermination of an
estimated six million Jews in World War Two, the country has
been at pains to take a stand against the persecution of
minorities and present itself as a tolerant, liberal society.
Sarrazin's comments have also caused embarrassment to the
Bundesbank, whose president, Axel Weber, has the support of many
German leaders to succeed European Central Bank President
Jean-Claude Trichet when he stands down next year.
The Bundesbank, one of the pillars of West Germany's postwar
recovery, is unlikely to want a long-drawn out court battle with
Sarrazin which could undermine Weber's chances.