Let Germans have a healthy debate on Mesut Özil
Most probably the only reason Mesut Özil has been outcasted when the German national team lost to Russia was his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan short while before the general elections in Turkey.
No doubt, President Erdoğan is the most unpopular figure in Germany. It seems the majority of the German public dislikes him. They do resent what they see as the anti democratic practices of Erdoğan in Turkey; but mostly what they find dreading is his appeal to the Turks living in Germany.
In their eyes he is the embodiment of everything that stands against integration/assimilation. For those among the Turkish community who do not feel themselves totally at home, or who feel discriminated by Germans, they find in Erdoğan a way of conveying their displeasure.
One cannot judge Germans for loving or hating Erdoğan. And no one can criticize Germans for resenting Mesut Özil for posing with a figure who recently called them “Nazi.”
Özil claims he had no political agenda in meeting Erdoğan. Suppose the contrary, suppose he likes Erdoğan, he likes his governance style and does not sympathize by all those who claim to be persecuted under Erdoğan rule.
But while being insensible to criticism coming from Turkey by Erdoğan’s opponents, perhaps he should have been more careful about the sensitivity of the German public.
Let’s imagine a Dutch player playing on a Turkish football club were to take a picture with the Dutch anti – Islam politician Geert Wilders; or a German player posing with the leaders of Afd.
The reaction would have been so loud in Turkey that most probably they would have been force to leave the country the next day.
But it is one thing to criticize an athlete for his or her ideological standing in public life another to put the whole blame of having lost the game.
That’s where the discussion starts evolving around racism. In line with the saying success has many fathers (and mothers-my adding), but failure is an orphan; Özil’s message “I am a German when we win, an immigrant when we lose,” must have resonated with millions of people with dual heritage.
A somehow similar debate took place between Trevor Noah the host of Daily Show and the French ambassador to Washington; the former congratulating Africa for the world cup and the latter reacting to it by saying every member in “l’equippe de France,” are French.
But how many French can say in total confidence that if Kylian Mbappé, were to walk in the HLMs of Paris (public housing for the low income or poor in France) incognito, he would not be subject to racist or discriminatory behavior. If let’ say he had a brother who took a different turn in life and had become a criminal, his Cameroonian or Algerian roots would have been highlighted rather than his Frenchness.
This happens everywhere in the world not only in “advanced democracies.” In Turkey we will soon face similar phenomenon more frequently with Turiksh citizens of Syrian decent.
The issue for the “advanced democracies,” is to face the threat of racism rather than pretending it does not exist and fight against it.
Coming back to Özil’s issue. Let’s hope this will trigger a healthy debate in Germany.
Özil had come under severe critisim in Turkey when he chose to play for German national team. It is natural for certain circles to show support and solidarity with Özil. But this is not a Turkish – German issue. This is an issue between Özil and Germany. Some of the statements coming from Turkish officials might not help but exacerbate the problem and in fact negatively effect the Turkish community in Germany. But worse it might prevent a healthy debate in Germany, about concepts like racism, immigration, integration, assimilation, multiculturalism.