Muhterem Aras recently became the first Muslim House Speaker of one of Germany’s federal parliaments, occurring at a very sensitive time for the country which has just welcomed more than one-million refugees — a majority of whom are Muslim. Tensions have recently arisen between refugee supporters and opponents. Chancellor Angela Merkel has faced fierce criticism and declining approval ratings.
Muhterem Aras recently sat down with the Washington Post to discuss the cultural climate in her home country and her role as the first female Muslim House Speaker. Here are some highlights from the interview:
“With my election to president of the state parliament on May 11, 2016, the Baden-Württemberg State Parliament made history — not just because it elected a woman to this high office for the first time, but also because it elected a woman with a non-German ethnic background. In this, the state parliament is setting a clear example, an example that reaches far beyond the borders of Baden-Württemberg — an example that stands for openness, for tolerance and for successful integration. This gives us hope and shows that we are on the right path.”
“Germany has achieved something incredible in the past year. In one year, our country has taken in more than 1 million refugees. This was only made possible by the dedication with which so many members of society have volunteered their service, a spirit of service which is still present.”
“I am very grateful to all those people who have shown this incredible dedication. But we must keep in mind that integration does not work overnight. In order to meet this great challenge, society as a whole must step up. We must provide a great deal of support while also expecting a great deal. This goes both for the refugees and local citizens. We urgently need cooperation at the European level on our refugee policy.”