Aygül Özkan becomes minister in Niedersachsen

Aygül Özkan becomes the new social minister in the German state of Niedersachsen, and thereby the first politician of Turkish background in such high office. More surprisingly, it is the conservative party CDU who lifted her into this office, considering their generally rigorous policies on immigration and integration.

Before coming to office this week, Özkan has stirred the first controversy among her conservative party colleagues and the public. While she called for banning headscarves from schools for reasons of secularism, she equally demanded to remove Christian crosses from classrooms, following the same spirit. This was too much innovation for the conservative camp, and Niedersachsen’s prime minister Wulff had to amend her statement.

More controversy was caused at the induction ceremony this week, when Özkan swore the oath on the constitution, adding the optional phrase “With the help of God”. After the ceremony she explained that she referred to the one and only God who is shared by the three monotheistic religions. But representatives of both Churches have jumped on this comment and declared that there are indeed vast differences between God and Allah and that the new minister should not have used the phrase.

In the current environment, Özkan could not have chosen a non-controversial option. Had she said “With the help of Allah”, one can only imagine the hysterical outcry of the public about Allah’s intrusion into German politics. If she had omitted the phrase, which would be most advisable option for all politicians in a truly secular state, the same religious representatives would have criticized. This critique once more reveals the bigotry of the German Churches and that it will be a long way until Turkish-German politicians are so common that they do not make it to the headlines simply for their background.

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