German Turks warn of racism in angry World Cup post-mortem

Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan present signed jerseys of their clubs to Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Reuters)
Updated 12 July 2018
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German Turks warn of racism in angry World Cup post-mortem

  • Before the World Cup started Mesut Ozil and his team mate Ilkay Gundogan posed for photos with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • Ozil a key player in Germany’s victorious campaign in Brazil in 2014 and Gundogan endured jeers and boos on the pitch in Russia

BERLIN: Since Germany humiliatingly crashed out of the World Cup, a team member with Turkish roots has faced a hailstorm of criticism that Muslim and migrant groups charge is openly racist.
Mesut Ozil, 29, quickly become a scapegoat for far-right populists, but the storm escalated when even German football bosses, rather than defend him, suggested the squad may have been better off without him.
At the heart of the storm is a political controversy that flared before the World Cup started, when Ozil and his team mate Ilkay Gundogan posed for photos with Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The incident sparked heated debate on whether the young men felt greater loyalty to their birth country Germany or to Turkey, the ancestral home of their families and of a three-million-strong minority group.
While Gundogan, 27, who plays for Manchester City, voiced dismay about the controversy, Ozil, an Arsenal midfielder, further infuriated critics by staying silent on the Erdogan affair.
Ozil, a key player in Germany’s victorious campaign in Brazil in 2014, and Gundogan endured jeers and boos on the pitch which, according to Bild daily, reduced Gundogan to tears in the locker room.
But the anger escalated after Germany’s shock first-round defeat to South Korea dismayed the football-mad nation.
First off the mark was the anti-Islam and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has long railed against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance to refugees.
AfD lawmaker Jens Maier charged bluntly that “Without Ozil we would have won!” in a tweet that also featured a picture of a smiling Ozil and the words “Are you satisfied, my president?“
The far-right AfD has risen to prominence with such shrill provocations, repeatedly suggesting that the national team should be made up of white, ethnic Germans.
But Muslim and other minority groups see the broader finger-pointing as a sign of a dangerous societal drift to the right at a time when immigration is a hot-button political issue.
Cihan Sinanoglu of the Turkish community in Germany told news agency DPA that the charges of disloyalty confirmed many Germans in their belief that “integration and multiculturalism have failed.”
The issue came to a head last week when German Football Association (DFB) bosses, rather than try to defuse the situation, suggested the team may have done better without Ozil.
The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, called for DFB president Reinhard Grindel and team director Oliver Bierhoff to resign.
Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state, where the players grew up, also slammed the DFB chiefs.
“The notion that a photo with Erdogan is to blame for the defeat against football giants South Korea,” he said, “is an idea only DFB officials could come up with — after three weeks of pondering the issue.”
Greens party politician Cem Ozdemir said that, although the Erdogan picture was a “grave mistake,” it did not justify the “clearly racist criticism” and accused the DFB of “cowardice.”
Author Baha Gungor said Ozil “is suffering the fate of hundreds of thousands of Turkish-born young people in Germany, who have totally integrated but, because they are also committed to their Turkish roots, always end up back in the crossfire.”
Speaking to a Cologne newspaper, he cited a similar example from France where player Karim Benzema, who has Algerian roots, had once remarked: “If I score, I am a Frenchman. If I miss, I am an Arab.”
He pointed out that after racist attacks against Swedish international Jimmy Durmaz, who has Syrian roots, the entire Swedish team had backed their teammate and shouted “Fuck Racism.”
“And in Germany? Here, the racism raining down on the two players is still met with silence, a scapegoat is being sought by those who want to distract from their own failure.”
Ozil’s 50-year-old father Mustafa told newspaper Bild am Sonntag that Bierhoff’s “insult ... serves to save his own skin” but had left his son “crestfallen, disappointed and offended.”
“We used to say that if we win, we win together. But now that we lost, we lost because of Ozil?“
“If I were in his place, I would say thank you, but I’m done. The hurt has been too much. In Mesut’s place, I would step down.”


A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Updated 20 July 2018
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A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island: Now that women in the Navy can wear ponytails, men want beards.
The Navy said last week that servicewomen could sport ponytails, lock hairstyles, or ropelike strands, and wider hair buns, reversing a policy that long forbade females from letting their hair down.
Servicemen immediately chimed in on social media, asking the Navy if they could grow beards. A sailor’s Facebook post with a #WeWantBeards hashtag was shared thousands of times.
Beards were banned in 1984. The Navy wanted professional-looking sailors who could wear firefighting masks and breathing apparatuses without interference.
The Navy says that’s still the case. Still, some hope the change in female grooming standards opens the door.
Travis Rader, a 29-year-old naval physical security officer, said allowing beards would boost morale for men, just like allowing ponytails and locks has for women. There are two things that would make many Navy men happy: beards and better boots, he added.
Rader had a 6-inch-long beard when he joined the Navy after high school.
“You take something away from somebody, and they want it more,” said Rader, a master-at-arms assigned to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
The Navy announced it was adding grooming options for women during a Facebook Live event. Many black women had asked the Navy to be more inclusive of different hair textures. The Navy had the standards in place because of safety concerns and to ensure everyone maintained a uniform, professional look.
Rader was one of several sailors who wrote in the comments section of the Facebook Live event to press for beards. Bill Williams, a 20-year-old naval information systems technician, commented too, asking why sailors can’t have beards if bearded civilian firefighters wear masks.
Williams said he thinks a nice, well-groomed beard looks very professional.
“It’d be great because I know that when I shave for multiple days in a row, it starts to really hurt,” said Williams, who works at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Hampton Roads in Virginia.
Sailors can get permission to grow a beard for religious reasons or if they have a skin condition that’s irritated by shaving. Mustaches are allowed as long as they are trimmed and neat.
“Handlebar mustaches, goatees, beards or eccentricities are not permitted,” the policy states. The Navy isn’t currently considering changing that.
Safety continues to be the primary concern, said Lt. J.G. Stuart Phillips, a spokesman for the chief of naval personnel. He referenced a 2016 study by the Naval Safety Center, which concluded that facial hair affects the proper fit and performance of respirators.