When she first ran for chancellor of Germany in 2005, Angela Merkel promised “zero tolerance” in matters of national security; five years afterward, she said that multiculturalism had “failed, and failed utterly.” But in January 2015, in what seemed a massive U-turn, she proclaimed Islam a “part of Germany”; and later that year, she welcomed a veritable army of Muslim “refugees” into the country, a foolhardy act that won her high praise from politically correct elites around the world. Hillary Clinton applauded Merkel’s “bravery in the face of the refugee crisis”; in December 2015, Time named Merkel Person of the Year. Just five days later, however, Merkel again slammed multiculturalism, warning that it “leads to parallel societies” and promising to cut immigration figures. Yet—maddeningly, menacingly—she kept the floodgates open, explaining that the “refugee crisis” represented a “historic test for Europe” and calling on other European leaders to follow her example.

Then came New Year’s Eve 2015-16. In a chilling illustration of the folly of Merkel’s policy, hundreds of migrants committed brutal sexual assaults—most famously in central Cologne, but also in the heart of nearly every other major German city. Since then, Merkel has had more and more to answer for: her country has experienced a rise in gang violence; it’s acquired more no-go zones; it’s undergone an epidemic of rapes in public swimming pools; and it’s seen the murder of German citizens by foreign-born Muslims become increasingly commonplace.

The most high-profile recent homicide victim—her body was found on a Freiburg riverbank in October—was 19-year-old Maria Ladenburger, a medical student and daughter of a top European Commission attorney. Ladenburger’s October 26 death notice in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asked for donations to Weitblick Freiburg, a student group under whose auspices she’d worked as a volunteer aiding refugees and migrants. On December 3 came news of a DNA report proving that the girl had been raped and killed by an Afghani asylum-seeker, identified by authorities only as Hussein K.

The murder sparked national outrage, as did the decision by ARD—the state-run, license-fee-funded broadcaster—to ignore it on its daily newscast, calling the story “too regional.” Rainer Wendt, chairman of the national police union, spoke for many Germans when he blamed Ladenburger’s slaughter on mass immigration and the so-called “welcome culture,” whose apostles, he charged, had responded to Hussein K.’s monstrous act with “not a word of compassion, no self-doubt, only arrogant insistence on [their] own noble disposition.” For Germans who’ve had enough of Merkel’s catastrophic immigration policy, the Ladenburger case has proved a lightning rod, contributing to her sinking approval ratings in the run-up to next year’s federal elections.

Which may explain why, in a December 6 speech to leaders of her party, the Central Democratic Union, the tough version of Merkel reappeared. Calling for a law against the burka, which is already forbidden in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as in parts of Spain, Italy, and Switzerland, Merkel maintained that the “full veil” was “not appropriate here” and “should be banned wherever it’s legally possible.” She further insisted that sharia law should never take precedence over German law.

The Washington Post suggested that Merkel’s latest remarks might “signal a pragmatic shift to the right” in the wake of Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory. The Post might also have cited this week’s constitutional referendum in Italy (the results of which were viewed as a thumbs-down to the EU and euro), the continuing rise of Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party in the Netherlands and of Marine Le Pen in France, and—most important—the blow dealt to Merkel in September when the Alternative for Germany party, which criticizes mass immigration, scored big in regional elections. But before one accepts the idea that Merkel has actually turned over a new leaf, it’s advisable to keep in mind that she’s been playing a double game throughout her tenure, talking tough (sometimes) about Muslim immigration and assimilation even as she’s stuck stubbornly to policies that have spelled disaster not only for Germany but also for much of Western Europe.

To be sure, in an attempt to lighten Germany’s load, Merkel has tried to force resistant EU members to take in some of the “refugees” she’s admitted; but to the extent that any of them do so, alas, the primary impact will be further to erode stability and order within those nations’ borders. Merkel also worked hard this year on what’s been called a “murky deal” with Turkey to try to stem the refugee tide, but so far, its main effect has been to embolden that country’s Islamofascist president, Recep Erdogan.

In any case, even if Merkel did come through with a burka ban, such a move—however positive—would mean little in the long run unless it was part of a broader, tougher approach designed to address effectively Germany’s, and Western Europe’s, ongoing Islamization. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of any such drastic policy shift.

Despite Merkel’s drop in popularity during the last few years, a November poll showed that a remarkable 59 percent of the German electorate still wanted to see her returned to office when federal elections are held sometime between August and November of next year. But already that figure has dropped dramatically: just this week, according to a Deutsche Welle survey, only 36 percent expressed that hope. Certainly, judging by the history of Merkel’s combination of tough talk and “compassionate” action on immigration, it seems likely that if German voters truly desire serious reform on this front, they should seek new leadership.

Photo: Volker Hartmann/Getty Images


City Journal is a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (MI), a leading free-market think tank. Are you interested in supporting the magazine? As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations in support of MI and City Journal are fully tax-deductible as provided by law (EIN #13-2912529).

Further Reading

Up Next