It’s election time in Berlin. On the 18th of September, the seats of the House of Deputies for the Land of Berlin will be up for grabs, as will the position of Mayor currently occupied by Klaus Wowereit.
One of the more troubling aspects of the election campaign has been the presence of a party (with signs up all over the primarily Turkish-immigrant neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg, Sch0eneberg and Neukoelln) which has a homophobic message.
I was at first excited by the BIG party: their posters encouraged multiculturalism and tolerance. I was then horrified to see the poster (above) in my local kebab shop, in Turkish. I went home and did some translating, and noticed that the BIG party, for all its claims of tolerance, is saying something quite different in its Turkish-language posters.
The BIG party is against teaching children about homosexuality in schools. There is a mix of fear-mongering and false information in their flyer, stating that very young children will targeted and ‘recruited’, which is of course nonsense. Many of the other parties have demanded that these flyers and posters be removed. Another poster states ‘I am Muslim and that’s good’, playing off of Klaus Wowereit’s famous quip to the media, ‘I am gay and that is also good’. Note there’s no ‘also’ in the BIG party’s statement, which is of course an attack on the current mayor, profiting from homophobia to take away his votes.
In fact I have not seen the translation into German (above) anywhere in Berlin, but many examples of the Turkish version. I think this is a rhetorical move to communicate one message to German speakers (we are a party for tolerance and difference), and another to the Turkish-speaking population (we advance ‘Islamic values’).
I wish this poster were a joke, like the ones of the satirical ‘Die Partei’ which want to build a nuclear waste dump in Prenzlauer Berg (‘Endlager Prenzlauer Berg’), or to rebuilt the Wall as a catwalk through Berlin. The BIG party is building on real and very serious cultural divisions in Berlin society, a double act of tolerance and hate.