A frame with a gold and platinum plate hangs on a dark gray wall, the outline of a raven spreading its wings is drawn in white on the glass. In addition to these awards for particularly successful pieces of music, two door frames lead into small rooms with controls and microphones. The interview with the authors Mohamed Chahrour and Marcus Staiger takes place in the left room, music is made in the right room.
It is the recording studio of rapper Raf Camora. And Camora’s independent publisher Ghost will publish a book entitled “Dakhil – Inside arabian Clans” on October 21st. Various major publishers declined publication. Staiger and Chahrour can only speculate about the reasons. Perhaps, they suspect, because the content of their book contradicts conventional public opinion about clans. Because the topic is actually a “long-running issue”.
The first chapter plays with the fear of the so-called great population exchange and the downfall of the West. To then point out that many well-known books on integration policy pick up on this fear. The conspiracy theory comes from the right-wing populist environment, but at the latest the success of Thilo Sarrazin’s “Germany Abolishes Itself” has shown that the story has also made it into the mainstream. Mohamed Chahrour and Marcus Staiger want to counter the common notion that the clans came as looters and chose a weak country, a “prey country”.
Mohamed Chahrour was born into a clan. The media equated the term clan with crime, he says, which annoyed him so much that he decided to write a book himself. In the introduction he reports how he approached an acquaintance whom he knew could write: the music journalist Marcus Staiger. During the research, the successful podcast “Clanland” was created, and the authors also recorded an audio book. Chahrour and Staiger want to clear things up. About what’s really “going on” within the clans.
How did the clans come to Germany? What did chain toleration mean for your life? Why are some media reports about clans problematic?
The book is called “Dakhil” because the two authors want to write from “inside” (Arabic: dakhil) how expulsion, integration policy and racism affected the life of large Arab families in Germany. They embed interviews with clan members, social scientists, politicians, journalists and the police in a historical and factual context. In contrast to the podcast, where the focus is on the conversations, they take a clearer position.
Mohamed Chahrour seems exhausted during the conversation, he’s hanging in his office chair, but he still answers the questions patiently and in detail for over an hour and a half. He presses his lips together when, after thanking him and stopping the recording, he comes up with a question. When he hears that it’s about his music and his acting career, Chahrour smiles, his tone changing. He obviously prefers to talk about it. Staiger, on the other hand, seems happy right from the start, fills the waiting time with small talk and finally offers to go out to eat together.
Chahrour says that for him the topic is over for the time being. “And when they chase us through the city with torches and pitchforks,” he says, “I don’t feel like talking about it anymore.” Staiger adds that as a white man it’s easier for him to close the deal. Chahrour, on the other hand, still bears the name and still has black hair. According to Staiger, they spent three and a half years researching crime, racism, war and politics. “It wasn’t easy work,” he says. The authors did not always agree, they describe themselves as “a radical left atheist and a conservative Muslim”.
Nevertheless, when reading the book, at some point it is no longer clear who wrote which part. How did the collaboration go? “Exhausting,” says Chahrour and Staiger nods. “But it’s nice,” adds Chahrour, “that I’ve formed new thoughts in this book.” Writing together has helped him not to run through the world thinking that his own view is the only right one.
Chahrour and Staiger know each other from martial arts. This and the music are their common anchor points, they say. Before turning to classical music, Chahrour did hip hop. In the book, the authors describe the connection between German gangster rap and clans. The subject has been in the media for two years because of the trial of Arafat Abou-Chaker. In the interviews that Staiger and Chahrour conducted with Abou-Chaker, it is not just about the connection to the rapper Bushido, but above all about his youth and membership in the “Spinne44” gang.
The book could be misunderstood as a justification for crime – at one point one reads that it borders on a miracle that more clan members have not become criminals. However, Chahrour and Staiger neither deny that crime exists in large Arab families nor that criminals choose this path themselves. It’s about something else. The interviews with clan members and scientists and the historical and social classification point to one point again and again: that the problem is not an imported one, but a home-made one. If people in Germany become criminals, maybe even grew up in Germany, then it is also a German problem.
Cultural identity is formed through demarcation: us and the others. Arab clans are the others in our society. “We are still on the run and have not arrived,” says Mohamed Chahrour. His mother advised him to put money aside to buy land in case the family was deported. In reply, he reminded her of his German passport. She wasn’t convinced. “You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” she said.
The generation that fled the civil war is very grateful to Germany, as Chahrour and Staiger found out while researching the book, they say. Chahrour has sent out many interview requests for the book, without expecting to be accepted. Chahrour’s mother was shocked when she held Angela Merkel’s unopened interview refusal in her hands. “What did you say about the chancellor?” she asked on the phone. “These people took us in! Stop gossip about the Germans.”
But the next generation wants more from Germany than a safe haven: they want to belong. Until they finally give up and identify with their culture of origin or what they think it is: “I used to want to be German first and then set myself apart,” says Chahrour. Now he’s relaxed about it. “What kind of achievement is it to be German or Lebanese? I didn’t lift a finger for it.” In the book he writes: “But nobody is taking Berlin away from me. I am at home in Berlin. (…) I am an Arab Berliner.”
Mohamed Chahrour made the same experiences as many of the interviewees. I don’t belong here? So I don’t want to be German. You don’t see me as a composer? So I become a rapper. I’m actually an entrepreneur, but you guys think I’m a drug dealer anyway… It’s easier to live up to expectations than to be different. And yet it is possible. Mohamed Chahrour is currently composing pieces of classical music to accompany the audio book for “Dakhil” – “if I can make it in time,” he says.
During the research for the book, Mohamed Chahrour really spoke to his parents about the civil war in Lebanon for the first time. They usually blocked, he had to “do the groundwork”. Until his mother, shaking and crying, began to talk about how neighbors were raped and acquaintances murdered. Then the father reported further. After this family conversation, Chahrour was able to compare his research with his father’s story again and again by asking questions.
Mohamed Chahrour enjoyed working on the chapter on the civil war in Lebanon. “It was easy for me to write, but it hit me hard,” he says. When reading for the audio book, his voice kept breaking, he says, and some of the production team also cried. Almost a quarter of the book deals with the origin of the clans, their flight and the civil war. It’s not just about showing the majority of society something. “History has to be written in order not to get lost,” says Chahrour.
Arrived in the here and now, the authors focus on the political agenda and the media. Eight percent of organized crime in Germany is attributed to Arab clans. So there is a disproportionate amount of reporting about it. The five-point plan for combating clan crime by former Interior Senator Andreas Geisel includes police recording and classification of criminal and administrative offenses committed by suspected clan members, as well as joint controls as a “pinprick strategy”.
Andreas Geisel, now Senator for Building, at the time of the interview Senator for the Interior of Berlin, says in the book: “I don’t negotiate with criminals.” community to start a conversation. Geisel’s sentence still sounds in the authors’ ears. Especially with regard to police work, Chahrour and Staiger admit that both sides have fears that are partly based on experience and are justified. It is a “ping-pong game” that will go on forever.
But as far as the question of identity is concerned, which is fundamental to the conflict described in the book, the impulse must come from the majority society, says Staiger. He was amazed to hear that Mohamed Chahrour is constantly aware that he is an Arab in Berlin. After all, he’s German. “If the world always sees and classifies you like this, how can you be yourself?” he asks. “Mainstream society needs to stop having that look.”
The authors say they want to initiate a dialogue between mainstream society and the Arab community. But in the book, they subordinate all conversations to a left-wing political perspective. That looks authentic. However, someone who does not already represent this perspective will hardly regard the text as an offer for discussion. “Dakhil” will still be an essential part of the debate because with all the talk about clans, someone from one of the extended families is finally speaking up.