The German news organisation RBB 24 will broadcast a documentary on 19 July 2017, 19:30 CEST. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) asked for a series of interviews with teachers to be made, to run in parallel with a pilot-project organised in Berlin called “Strengthening Democracy – Active against Antisemitism and Neo-Salafism”. On the basis of the outcome of these interviews, conducted in the autumn of 2015 and spring 2016, it seems that antisemitic tendencies in schools are growing.
The interviews have been conducted in cooperation with the “Landes-institute for Schools and the Media in Berlin-Brandenburg” (LISUM). Some of the schools have a high percentage of students with a Turkish or Arabic migration background, although some are in solidly middle-class areas. The researchers stress, that their study is not representative for the situation in the whole of Berlin, but much more an empirical approach to the theme. It did establish, that antisemitic stereotypes and hostile images of Jews as the Other, are strongly present according to the teachers questioned. On schoolyards, it’s commonplace to use the word Jew as an insult.
Were children and youths with an immigration background likely to identify by their ethnicity and nationality in the past, today they are more likely to identify with their religion. According to teachers, this identification is, at the same time, a delineation from and a rejection of others. Several teachers spoke of literal “moral guards”, students who were trained by “religious authorities” to check the contents of what is taught in school. But they also check up on the other students, targeting, in particular, secular Muslims, those with another religion or atheïsts. In the documentary, the influence of Mosques is discussed:
“Some of those questioned mentioned a ‘review’ of what was taught in school by religious autorities like Quran-teachers or Mosques. The opinions of these institutions are often more highly regarded by students. (…) We have a kind of parallel education. On the one hand, there is that which the school must teach, and then there, with a lot of students, visiting the Mosque, the clubs organised by the Mosque, that have their unofficial influence.“
One teacher said that he has observed students going to the Al Nur-Mosque in Berlin for 15 years and that he wonders
“how effective the brainwashing must be, which is used to make those students so anti-Western, so anti-American too, but also so antisemitic so fast. We have to fight with all our strength against that – and with some we succeed, but not with everybody.“
Michael Rump-Räuber of LISUM works with the AJC on the project “Strengthening Democracy – Active against Antisemitism and Neo-Salafism”. Because of this, he regularly receives feedback from teachers. He remembers remarks made by teachers after the terror-attack on the Berlin Christmas-market. Among
Among students conspiracy theories at once sprang up, which blamed everything on the Jews and the USA and said the perpetrator was a CIA-agent, and the attack committed with intent to instil hatred of Muslims.
“I adviced the teachers, who we questioned, to talk to their students: explain the facts. Our Institute has been dealing with these problems of antisemitism and extremism for years.“
Berlin has long since recognised the problem, and is working on solutions, trying to train teachers to cope. According to Deidre Berger, the director of the AJC, the questionnaire shows above all that
“it’s not just an isolated incident.“
At the same time, she doesn’t want to “stigmatise” and talks about a dialogue in school about the Middle-Eastern conflict, Israel and the Jews. The documentary shows, however, that a lot of teachers would rather avoid that dialogue.
Over 13.000 girls to be circumcised
More than half of the questioned teachers stress that especially girls are pressured into adhering to a particular religiously inspired standard. One extreme example of this, is that there are apparently more than 58,000 women in Germany circumcised, and another 13,000 girls whose families plan to have them circumcised – an increase of 4,000 over last year. According to Terre des Femmes spokeswoman Charlotte Weil:
“We don’t know of any cases where a girl was mutilated in Germany. It either takes place on a holiday back in their homeland, or during a visit to a practitioner in a city such as Paris or Amsterdam.“
But other groups also suffer from this development, with homosexuality being viewed as an illness and not tolerated. All of the descriptions in the documentary are based on what teachers in Berlin said. More research is necessary, but the teachers at present feel helpless. According to the documentary, the teachers want more support and strategies to combat these phenomena they meet in everyday school life.