Miss Kambouri is of non-Germany ancestry herself; her parents immigrated from Greece, and she is often mistaken for a Turk or other Middle Easterner. She even mentions that her best friend is Turkish and, by implication, a Muslim. This makes it harder to accuse her of xenophobia.
It also gives her an unusual perspective. Miss Kambouri says she knows only one Turkish phrase, since she hears it several times a day: “Turk müsün?” (Are you Turkish?). Turks–and other Middle Easterners–ask her if she is one of them, in the hope of getting special treatment. For them, loyalty to their extended family comes above the rule of law, a pattern familiar throughout the Third World but alien to Germans.
According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, there are between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims in Germany, about half of whom are German citizens. (The Pew Research Center cites a 2010 estimate of 4.8 million, and some sources put the current figure at 5.8 million.) Turks are by far the largest group of Muslims in Germany, but make up less than 40 percent of the total. Others come from the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeastern Europe. Muslims are therefore about 5 percent of the total population, but Germans think the figure is far higher. Survey respondents generally estimate Muslims at about 20 percent of the population.
This is probably because of the “conspicuous behavior” of many young Muslim men, and their overrepresentation in crime. An estimated 80 percent of violent youth offenders in Berlin are of Turkish or Arab descent. Half of Muslims in Germany are below age 25, so many are in the high-crime age range. The problem does not go away with more time spent on German soil; like American Hispanics, second- and third-generation immigrants are more prone to crime than the first generation.
Miss Kambouri is open about the appalling behavior of Muslim men. She writes that they physically attack the police and call up mobs to interfere with police activity. She also notes that immigrant offenders often play the race card, accusing the police of stopping them only because of their foreign appearance, and that this intimidates many officers. Apparently, it does not intimidate her; she defends stereotypes. As she puts it, although each person is an individual, “you will see the same behavior over and over in certain groups–stereotypes sometimes develop not entirely unjustly, not everything is a matter of malicious prejudices [all translations are my own].” (page 44).
Miss Kambouri describes something similar to the broken-windows theory of policing, which inspired New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 1990s: If police tolerate low-level infractions such as vandalism or breaking windows, it sends the signal that the area is not being watched by the authorities. This encourages an atmosphere of lawlessness in which both petty and serious crimes become more likely.
Miss Kambouri finds a similar pattern in the conduct of Muslim men towards the police. She writes that they curse at her and make provocative gestures, as if daring her to approach them. She says this is a way of testing the power dynamic. If the police show signs of weakness–and indifference is a sign of weakness–men take this as an invitation to be more aggressive in the future.
This can lead to assaults on the police, which are far from rare in certain neighborhoods. Miss Kambouri refers to a study of her own state that found that half of all officers have been subject to at least one violent assault. When the police are already held in low regard, ignoring minor provocations undermines their authority and can lead to serious consequences.
Miss Kambouri describes greater separation between ethnic groups than even that found in the United States. Muslims not only have a different conception of justice that condones violence in defense of “honor;” they set up parallel judicial authorities. Muslim Friedensrichter, or “magistrates,” settle disputes among Muslims based on sharia law. These magistrates have no legal status, but are regarded as the legitimate authorities by many Muslims. Friedensrichter do not even have any particular qualifications; instead their positions are often passed down from father to son for generations.
Miss Kambouri concedes that there are benefits to these courts; they often reach decisions much more quickly than German courts. The participants often then consider the matter closed and refuse to accept the jurisdiction of German courts. An estimated 90 percent of crimes committed in Muslim communities are not even reported to the German authorities. This saves costs in the justice system but, as Miss Kambouri notes, it makes a mockery of national law. She thinks these parallel-system judges should be punished, both for circumventing German law and for any crimes they may have covered up.
Miss Kambouri criticizes what she calls a fundamental error in German politics and society: the assumption that immigrants or refugees will simply integrate. She writes that many believe that migrants want “a free, open society and say yes and amen to everything because they think what is going on in our democracy is so great.” (37-38) Instead, many newcomers simply want a better standard of living and have no interest in Western culture or mores.
Miss Kambouri bemoans the widespread refusal to accept this fact and the constant desire to be politically correct. She denounces the tendency to use euphemisms to obscure real problems–a pathological trend at all levels of society. This stems from Germany’s past. Miss Kambouri writes that her colleagues are afraid to talk about the large number of foreign offenders because “the same old story with the Nazis” will be thrown in their faces. (218) As she puts it, the Germans of today can do nothing more about the murders done by the National Socialists than she can do about the Greek financial crisis.
Currently, criminals in Germany are categorized as having Migrationshintergrund (migration background) only if they are not citizens. Those born in Germany or who have acquired a German passport are “German,” regardless of whether they have any understanding of German culture or even speak German. The author explains that the police should be aware of the ethnicity of all perpetrators, because culture often explains motives. In its blindness to ethnicity, Germany is even more cowed than the United States. Our authorities obscure Hispanic crime rates, but at least accept that race is a relevant category for crime statistics.
Miss Kambouri has interesting observations about ethnic differences in criminal activity. Muslims are more prone to crimes of violence, including robberies, as well as offenses in defense of their traditional concept of honor. Refugees also fight among themselves and damage their publicly-provided housing to the point that it is uninhabitable.
Eastern Europeans–mainly Romanians and Bulgarians–are more likely to commit crimes requiring more forethought, such as various types of non-violent fraud or theft. One common scheme is to break into shops and steal nothing, but install modified credit-card readers that give access to the bank accounts of customers. Miss Kambouri also notes that Eastern European burglars seem to plan their escape routes precisely, and so can rarely be caught. Miss Kambouri also explains that professional, highly organized Eastern European gangs operate internationally. Muslim criminals are not as sophisticated.
Roma and Sinti (gypsies), are known for stealing copper wire out of electric fixtures in broad daylight. Miss Kambouri also reports that they gather in large numbers in hospitals, where they make noisy scenes over a sick relative, which disturbs hospital staff and other patients. When police come and ask them to leave they fight the police.
Explanations and justificationsMiss Kambouri’s explanations for immigrant crime are somewhat sympathetic to the immigrants but more nuanced than simply blaming a prejudiced society. She admits that many immigrants lack the will to integrate, but attributes this both to the immigrants themselves and to society. She says immigrants have unequal opportunities and are not well accepted (presumably by the mainstream). She does not, however, accept lack of education as an excuse. She writes that anyone who does not make use of Germany’s free schools are themselves to blame. Nor does she accept the victim mentality of blaming “incompetent teachers, xenophobic politicians, the state, the Germans, whoever.” (29-30)
Miss Kambouri also writes that the Muslim attitude towards women keeps Muslims from integrating into German society. She also decries the have an arrogant, black-and-white Muslim view of cultural differences. They are convinced of the superiority of their traditional ways and inflexible injunctions; they have no interest in adapting to the West. Muslim parents strongly oppose any kind of integration, especially for girls, who are taught simply to obey.
Miss Kambouri nevertheless goes out of her way to be somewhat politically correct. She insists that nothing she says should be interpreted as justification for prejudice or discrimination against any group. She writes that Germany “of course” needs immigrants because of its low birthrate, and that accepting refugees is a matter of course. She claims that immigrants, who are about 20 percent of the population, can be enriching. She cites a study that claims immigrants are a benefit for the welfare state–although the study is of immigrants overall, the vast majority of whom are not Muslim. Every time she mentions criminal behavior, she insists that environment shapes the offender’s worldview. She even argues that one of the worst consequences of immigrant crime is that it bolsters the positions the political right.
I have no reason to doubt Miss Kambouri’s mainstream sensibilities, and if she had not expressed them her book might not have been published at all, let alone taken seriously. Not only do Germans still have an ingrained horror of nationalism to a degree unusual even among Western nations, there are laws criminalizing Volksverhetzung or “incitement to hatred” that can be broadly interpreted. Nevertheless, her political correctness does not obscure any of the problems she describes.
When it comes to policy prescriptions, Miss Kambouri naturally wants more resources for the police. The number of officers has been decreasing while populations in the “parallel societies” are increasing. She would also establish reform schools for “at-risk” young people. She would also like mandatory school instruction in human rights–which she appears to think will change their attitudes towards women–and thinks children should be taken away from abusive parents. She believes that harsh measures, consistently and quickly applied, are the only way to improve behavior for some offenders.
What is most important, however, is that this work represents a much-needed statement of the obvious about a crucial ethnic conflict, coming from someone with personal experience. Although many Germans can see from anonymous comments online that they are not the only ones who notice these things, Miss Kambouri’s work may carry more weight as a book from a prestigious publisher, Piper Verlag.
Miss Kambouri writes that hundreds of law enforcement personnel have contacted her to convey support, but it is still difficult to discuss these issues publicly. Not coincidentally, many Germans are unaware of the attitudes of many non-Western immigrants toward the wider society. Miss Kambouri notes that many people she speaks with are outraged at what she describes and encourage her to inform the public–even though they are not willing to admit the scope of the problem. This underscores the continuing value of her work.