The new lawmakers, who include Germany’s first two members of Parliament of African descent, say that a country that has long had a troubled relationship with diversity is slowly becoming more inclusive.
The arrival of minority legislators will affect broader discussions of what it means to be German, with a debate over whether to allow dual citizenship sure to be a hot topic in coming years.
German attitudes toward nationality tend to be much more rigid than in the United States, where hyphenated, dual identities are commonplace. Many of the new lawmakers say they are living proof that Germans can hold on to their roots — and that they plan to be an example for the rest of the country.
In total, 36 of the 630 members of Parliament who will be sworn in this month have roots outside of Germany, according to the Mediendienst Integration organization, or 5.7 percent. That’s up from 3.4 percent in the previous legislature elected in 2009, although some of those cited have northern European immigrant backgrounds that made it easier for them to integrate into German society.
“We are not yet on this level, that it’s normal that Germans are black-haired or don’t look like typical Germans,” said Giousouf, 35, who was born in the western German city of Leverkusen to parents from Greece’s Turkish minority.
Giousouf said she wanted to ease restrictions on dual citizenship, which currently force Germans born with two citizenships to pick one when they turn 23. That has long been a source of alienation among people who are sometimes split between cultures but feel that broader German attitudes treat dual citizenship as a sign of disloyalty, Giousouf said.
‘Not a question of loyalty’
Children of immigrants “say okay, we’re German, but we also want to respect our parents, our roots,” she said. “It’s not a question of loyalty.”
As for being the first Muslim lawmaker from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic party, Giousouf said that people with immigrant or non-Christian roots can also believe in keeping taxes low and in a role for religion within schools. Those policies are opposed by the center-left Social Democrats, who have historically captured most of Germany’s Turkish vote.
West German efforts in the 1960s and 1970s to recruit temporary “guest workers” from Turkey led to a sizable Turkish population in Germany. The government was slow to catch up to the reality that most of them were there to stay, and for decades denied citizenship to the German-born children of Turkish workers.
Citizenship laws were eased in 2000, but Germany’s 3 million residents with Turkish roots have struggled to build political clout. Still, 11 Parliament members with Turkish roots were elected last month, up from five in 2009.