Germany is set to air its first ever Arabic-language television programme this evening, in a bid to help migrants adapt to German culture.
Marhaba (‘Hello’ in Arabic) features tips such as ‘stick to the rules’, and lessons on cultural tolerance. It also reminds viewers that German Basic Law — the constitution — takes precedence over all others, including Sharia.
The programme, which takes the format of a chat show, will be hosted by Constantin Schreiber, a former Middle East correspondent who speaks fluent Arabic.
Mr. Schreiber pioneered the format via a series of ten, five-minute online videos. The first, entitled “We, the Germans”, focussed on social mores in Germany and the need to respect the rules. “I also want to talk to you about small details like the use of mobile phones and the need to respect the rules, traffic lights, and road signs in our country,” he tells his viewers.
“For example, we don’t use mobile phones while driving, we respect pedestrian lights and we do not cross when they’re red.”
He also suggested not phoning or texting German friends in the evening, as they will be resting after a long day at work and will most likely be annoyed.
The second, focusing on the rule of law, was filmed in the government district of Berlin. Standing before the Reichstag parliament building in the background, Mr. Schreiber tells the viewers: “Freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly are just three of the main rights secured by [German] Basic Law.”
Deputy Finance Minister Jens Spahn then spells out what freedom of expression looks like in Germany:
“Freedom of speech means everyone may say what they think. Freedom of the press means you may make jokes, even about religion.
“Even when jokes are made about the Koran, this must be tolerated.”
However, the shorts proved so popular that the private cable channel n-tv commissioned ten episodes. In the first, set to air this evening, Mr. Schreiber will be interviewing Marah, a 16 year old Syrian student who will talk of her experiences in fleeing the war and hopes for the future; Hans-Christian Ströbele of the Green Party and Patrick Sensburg of the Christian Democrats to discuss how jobs can be found for the million asylum seekers to reach Germany this year; and finally MTV presenter Wana Limar, who came to Germany as a five year old from Afghanistan.
Speaking of his motivation in making the series, Mr. Schreiber said:
“In the past few weeks the media have talked a lot about “waves of refugees”. But it struck me that the one thing missing from the conversation has been making direct contact with the people who have come to us in large numbers.
“Of course they will have to eventually be able to communicate with us in German, and I consider this a prerequisite for anyone who wants to live with us. But it takes time, and until then we can or we should address them in the language they speak.”
There are approximately four million Muslims currently living in Germany, three quarters of whom are Turks who arrived in the country in the 1960s and 70s under Germany’s “guest worker” scheme. However, half of that group have failed to integrate, and the speed of the current influx poses similar problems for integrating the new wave of one million asylum seekers.
Mr. Schreiber says he beilieves it is unrealistic to expect immigration to continue at such a pace. “If we look at the magnitude of the disaster in Syria, as well as in Libya and Yemen, and to the difficult situation in other countries in the region, the solution cannot be to deport the population of those countries into Europe so that they can enjoy a safe life here. This is unrealistic.
“It must be the goal of German foreign policy work to improve living conditions in those countries so that there are future prospects for people in their home countries.
“But of course [we do have] a humanitarian obligation to help those who suffer great difficulties in search of the protection we offer.”