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The new anti-Semitism

Having seen the disastrous consequences of virulent anti-Semitism firsthand, Germany must lead the fight against Europe’s rising intolerance towards Muslims, writes The Local’s Marc Young.

The new anti-Semitism
Photo: DPA

Pedants never tire of pointing out that the term anti-Semitism should not solely apply to prejudice against Jews, but also other Semitic peoples like the Arabs.

For once, I’m for backing such Semitic semantics in light of the increasingly acrid debate about the integration of Arab and Turkish immigrants in Germany. In recent weeks, it’s become rather apparent that bigotry towards Muslims is Europe’s new anti-Semitism.

Last weekend, Horst Seehofer, the conservative state premier of Bavaria, sparked outrage by calling for an end to immigration from Islamic countries. Many German observers chalked up his comments as a ham-fisted attempt to bolster support for his Christian Social Union party by pandering to crass xenophobia.

But Seehofer’s remarks followed several of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives expressing unease over German President Christian Wulff’s recent statement that Islam was as much a part of German society as Christianity and Judaism. One Bavarian politician even said there could be no religious equality for Islam in Germany.

Of course, anyone who thinks Muslim influence on European culture was rolled back with the Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1683 should try living without the benefits of algebra for a day.

But the contentious national discussion started over the summer by the centre-left Social Democrat Thilo Sarrazin – who claimed in an inflammatory book that Muslim immigrants would be Germany’s downfall – should not be dismissed lightly as harmless populism by insecure politicians.

Just as the statistic-loving former Bundesbank board member Sarrazin wrongly reduced entire groups of people to numbers, Seehofer has maligned individual Turks and Arabs by damning them collectively.

And such publicly professed prejudice has consequences.

Two studies published this week showed German youths held widespread biases against Turks and that xenophobia in Germany was spreading.

Tragically it took something as horrific as the Holocaust to ensure Jews equal treatment in Western democracies like Britain and the United States, where anti-Jewish attitudes were rife prior to World War II. No-one should forget that it was only the incomparable crimes of Nazi Germany committed against Europe’s Jewry that made it no longer socially acceptable to express anti-Semitic sentiments openly.

But unlike many nations, Germans have unflinchingly confronted the darker parts of their past in order to learn from it. Accordingly, Germany must now not allow an entire group of people be discriminated against because of their religion or heritage.

Many German conservatives have recently mentioned the country’s “Christian-Judeo” traditions – something that would normally be expressed in English as being Judeo-Christian. But it’s not just the chronological order of the three monotheistic faiths Judaism, Christianity and Islam that makes it easy to include the Jews while excluding Muslims.

It’s also the Holocaust. People who these days deny the huge cultural contribution of Jews to German society are beyond the pale – and rightfully so. But it doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to apply the ugly rhetoric currently being directed towards Muslims to Germany’s Jewish population before the war.

Let me be painfully clear here – I am in no way equating the persecution Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis with the anti-Muslim sentiment now simmering in modern, democratic Germany.

However, just as it was once acceptable to badmouth Jews and scapegoat them for society’s ills – in Germany as well as Western democracies like America and Britain – millions of law-abiding, well-integrated Muslims are now being targeted unfairly.

It would be easy to say this new anti-Semitism started on September 12, 2001, but Europe’s immigration issues have little to do with overblown fearmongering about Osama bin Laden’s “Islamofascists” plotting world domination. Germany’s Muslim integration problems are of a longer festering sort caused first and foremost by the country’s denial for decades that immigrants from Turkey and elsewhere were here to stay.

There is no point disputing that Arabs and Turks could be better integrated in German society, but labelling them all as unwanted troublemakers simply because of their faith contravenes the core tenets of liberal Western democracy.

No matter your race, creed or colour, if you adhere to the principles of the constitution – the Basic Law in Germany’s case – you should be welcome. Anything else is bigotry, plain and simple.

The Local – set up by two British expats in Sweden – is by nature pro-immigrant. We write for exchange students and engineers from Indonesia and Morocco as much as bankers and au pairs from America and Australia.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question. 

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