Madame (Muslim) Minister

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Aygül Özkan: Ever heard of . . . Well, wait! In the first place, is it a he or a she? (No fair looking at the title. And don’t worry, I won’t ask you to try to pronounce the name; I can’t hear you from here anyway.)

Unless you live in Hamburg or in Lower Saxony, you probably don’t have a clue. Aygül Özkan is a she, 38 years old, of Turkish descent. And, as it turns out, she is the choice of Lower Saxony state president Christian Wulff (CDU) to be the Social and Integration Minister in his new cabinet. (She’s also rather pretty, check out the picture – but I’m not allowed to say that about Muslim women, is that right?)

Ah yes: as the profile in the FAZ by Frank Pergande is careful to explain, Ms. Özkan is Muslim, or at least nominally so, the daughter of parents who both emigrated to Germany in the 1960s from Turkey, of which the father has long run his own tailor-shop in the Hamburg suburb of Altona. As it turns out, the “C” in that “CDU” that describes the party of which both she and her boss Wulff are members stands for Christlich, or “Christian”; it’s the mainstream party of the conservative Right that is also in power (under a coalition arrangement) at the federal level in Berlin. It’s the party of Chancellor Merkel – indeed, the Bundeskanzlerin certainly knows who Aygül Özkan is, and a picture of them together has appeared in the press, including in Germany’s leading Turkish newspaper Hürriyet. (more…)

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