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Talking Germany

Blog with Peter Craven

The very international Mr. Ali

Media man and media critic

The figures are not easy to calculate – but it’s estimated that there are somewhere between two and a half and four million people of Turkish origin living here inGermany. There are some, but not many, on German TV. So, although my latest guest on Talking Germany isn’t unique, he is unusual. He’s DW-TV’s own Ali Aslan. But Ali, who presents Quadriga – DW’s international talk show – insists that he’s precisely that: “I’m not Turkish, not German. I’m international.”

Ali clearly thrives on living and working in the German capital. But his heart beats elsewhere, too. “One of the hardest decisions in my life was,” he says, “the decision to leaveNew York.” It was a place where he picked up a prestigious master’s degree and worked extensively as a journalist. A great town – and it’s clear that Ali adored it. But “a tough town,” he adds and there’s a hint of Sinatra-esque pride: “If you can make it there,” Ali clearly believes, “you can make it anywhere.”

Ali’s great dream – as a teenager – was to play professional soccer. As a seventeen-year-old he moved toHamburgin a bid to break through the ranks at the city’s St. Pauli club. But it wasn’t to be: “Something was missing – I’m not sure what!” So, I wonder, who were his idols back then? Perhaps the outstanding German midfielder Lothar Matthäus, who led his country to their World Cup triumph in 1990? Well, no – I should have guessed: “My idol was Diego Maradona.” Flair beats force.

Where, I ask, does Ali really feel at home? Where is Heimat, as the Germans say?Hamburg,Berlin,New York,Istanbul(where his mother and sister live these days)? Or, perhaps, somewhere else again? “Heimat is all relative,” is the cautious response. And then there’s a very thoughtful moment. “You knowGermanyis a great place, and it’s been so very good to me. But there are two things that I find troubling. One is in the German media. We’re addicted to labeling! We don’t scratch below the surface.” Which, I fear, is often true. “And there’s a still a good way to go before we stop asking people where they’re from and start asking them what they can do.” It’s another tough truth from the very international Mr. Ali.


January 13, 2013