German central banker denies stirring up racism
Aug. 26, 2010, 4:27 p.m. | World
— by Reuters
BERLIN, Aug 26 (Reuters) - A German central banker who made disparaging comments about Muslim immigrants in a book denied on Thursday he was stirring up racism amid accusations from a senior lawmaker he was damaging the Germany's image.
German central bank board member Thilo Sarrazin, who has sparked uproar several times for his criticism of Turks and Arabs living in Germany, took aim at Muslims again in his new book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany does away with itself). In the book, Sarrazin, a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), argues that Muslims undermine German society, marry "imported brides" and have a bad attitude.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a member of her conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) party, both condemned Sarrazin on Wednesday.
SDP members have called for him to quit the party and resign from the Bundesbank.
But in a lengthy interview with weekly Die Zeit, Sarrazin defended himself against the charge he was encouraging racism with his remarks, which have won praise from far-right parties like Germany's National Democratic Party (NPD).
"I am not a racist," he told the newspaper. "The book addresses cultural divisions, not ethnic ones."
Later in the interview, Sarrazin argued that young Muslim men in Germany were aggressive due to sexual frustration.
"Sadly, the huge potential for aggression in this group is obvious. The Arab boys can't get at their Arab girls," he said.
"In the end, they use the German girls from the underclass who are easier to get, and then they hold them in contempt because they're so readily available."
On Thursday, Ruprecht Polenz, a CDU lawmaker who heads the Bundestag lower house of parliament's foreign policy committee, told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper that 65-year-old Sarrazin was doing his homeland no favours.
"As a member of the Bundesbank board, Sarrazin holds high office nationally," he said. "Whenever such an important functionary operates with such prejudices, claims and malicious generalisations, it casts a cloud over Germany's image abroad."
"I wonder how long the German Bundesbank is going to just sit there and do nothing," he added.
So far the German central bank has resisted calls to remove Sarrazin, saying the remarks were his personal opinions and were not linked to his role at the bank.
However, the comments are a potential embarrassment for Bundesbank President Axel Weber, who a number of senior German politicians have backed to succeed Jean-Claude Trichet as president of the European Central Bank next year.
Last year, Sarrazin sparked a furore after telling a magazine that most of Berlin's Arab and Turkish immigrants had no useful function "apart from fruit and vegetable trading". The central bank then stripped Sarrazin of some of his duties.
Almost 3 million people of Turkish origin and an estimated 280,000 of Arab extraction live in Germany.