Whose president?

Not much of a soccer fan, sometimes I miss out on stories like this. Better late than never:

Ilkay Gundogan [İlkay Gündoğan] of Manchester City and Mesut Ozil [Özil], a player for Arsenal London, triggered an uproar in Germany when they met with Erdogan [Erdoğan] in London in May. The players, German citizens with Turkish roots, had their picture taken with Erdogan. Gundogan presented a Manchester City jersey to the Turkish leader and signed it, adding the words “to my president, with respect.”

The meeting was part of Erdoğan’s election campaign. I expected better of Özil, who had always seemed a fine man and footballer. As for Gündoğan, he’s shown where his heart is, and possibly his treasure.

Cenk Tosun, a member of the Turkish national team who plays at Everton, also attended but Emre Can, a German-Turkish midfielder playing for Liverpool, declined to meet Erdogan.

All the four players mentioned were born in Germany to Turkish parents: Özil and Gündoğan in Gelsenkirchen in 1988 and 1990; Tosun in Wetzlar in 1991; and Can in Frankfurt in 1994. Tosun grew up and learned to play soccer in Germany but accepted Turkish citizenship to play for their national team. His status as Turkey’s striker gave him a valid pretext for meeting the country’s president. The other two men had no such excuse.

To be fair, a good deal of immigrants from Russia and other ex-Soviet republics have turned into Putin supporters lately – on both sides of the Atlantic as well as in Israel – but their children don’t seem to share in this sentiment. For the wrong reasons, perhaps, as they absorb mushy liberal-ish orthodoxies unthinkingly, but that’s how integration works. The young go with the flow and so join the mainstream. Obviously, this doesn’t quite work for some immigrant groups in Germany. Ozan Ceyhun, “a Turkish-German columnist and a former member of the European Parliament,” complains:

“That will leave a bad aftertaste for many Muslims in Germany,” Ceyhun said in an interview. “Ozil, in particular, has been a role model for young Turks and young Muslims. Now they are watching as he is being clobbered.”

As a consequence, “Germany could lose its Muslims” as youngsters concluded that they would never be accepted by German society…

Born and raised in Germany, these youngsters are still “young Turks” (not the original ones, of course) to Ceyhun – not young Germans of Turkish extraction. I can understand why they don’t convert en masse to Christianity – it’s no longer part of the mainstream way of life and most of Western Christianity is rather weak tea nowadays, promising neither ecstasies nor torments. What’s puzzling to me is why so many children of immigrants call themselves secular Muslims, not simply secular. Or, rather, I don’t understand why the best-educated and trained minds among them refuse to peel off the Muslim labeling, since the notion of religion as a hereditary property cannot make much sense to them.

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