I have been trying to forget Thilo Sarrazin, whose crude racial theories - put forward in his best selling book Deutschland schafft sich ab - were all the rage several years ago. In the meantime, Sarrazin has pretty much faded from public view and is no longer invited on the TV talk shows. His last book - a rant against the Euro - did not sell nearly as well as his first, so I was hopeful that Sarrazin's 15 minutes of fame was over for good.
Now, the United Nations has brought Thilo Sarrazin back into public view with a scathing report on the Federal Republic's response - or lack thereof - to Sarrazin's crude racial stereotyping:
A United Nations committee has reprimanded Germany in strong language, saying that the country had violated an international anti-racism convention.
At issue are controversial statements made in 2009 by Thilo Sarrazin, a former finance senator for the city-state of Berlin, about Turks and Arabs, who he said sponged off the state and were incapable of integrating, among other things. But a complaint submitted to public prosecutors in Berlin was rejected on grounds that the comments were permissible under Germany's freedom of expression law. An appeal to the decision was rejected as well.
According to the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), however, this constituted a violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, because it failed to conduct an "effective investigation" into the matter.
"This is a historic decision," said the TBB Turkish Union, the cultural organization that submitted the case to the committee, in a statment on Thursday. "CERD has determined that Mr. Sarrazin's comments touch on a feeling of racist superiority or racial hatred and contain elements of incitement to racial discrimination."
You can read the entire CERD report here (pdf warning).
The UN committee has given Berlin 90 days to respond.
Much as I despise Sarrazin and agree with the sentiments of the CERD Report, I don't believe the German government has any compelling reason to respond to the report. Sarrazin's book and his idiotic comments are protected under the right of freedom of expression. The government has no role in censoring speech - even hateful, stupid speech - as long as it is not inciting violence. It is not the task of the German government to moderate the response to a book, no matter how detestable. Descrimination based on gender or ethnic origin is prohibited under German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) and the government's job is to enforce the law.
Sarrazin's festival of hate has played itself out in Germany; ultimately, it is Sarrazin who is the loser in the court of public opinion. Let's leave it at that.