BERLIN - A German court has refused to allow an immigrant family to shed their foreign-sounding names and pick German ones to avoid job discrimination in the European country.
"The fact that a surname is of foreign origin, or does not sound German, cannot alone be routinely presented as an important reason for a change of name," the administrative court in Goettingen, in the state of Lower Saxony, said in a document cited by Reuters.
An immigrant family from Azerbaijan has sought to change their names to German ones to protect themselves against discrimination.
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The family argued that their names, which carry Islamic associations, could lead to denying them jobs.
The Azeri family, living in Germany under asylum, was offered to choose German versions of their names, but they refused.
Instead, the family insisted to pick completely new German names with the goal of preventing any discrimination in finding work that could arise from an overly complicated spelling or connection to Islam.
But the court rejected the argument, saying that job discrimination was no justification for name changes.
"The point of having a right to bear a name is not to counteract flaws in society," the court document said.
Germany's robust labor market has outshone those of its debt-stricken European Union neighbors with unemployment figures reaching two-decade lows.
The country has become increasingly popular as a destination for immigrants from elsewhere in Europe and further afield.
The lifting of German restrictions on east European workers last May sparked a surge in immigration from countries like Poland, German government figures showed in January.
The Arab Spring uprisings helped push up the number of people seeking asylum in Germany by 11 percent last year.
Germany registered the third highest number of claims of the 44 industrial countries surveyed, UN figures show.
The court ruling sets the bar for immigrants seeking to change their names over fears of discrimination.
"This is one individual case, but it could be used generally to inform other cases," said court spokesman Olaf Lenz.
Germany has 15.1-million strong population of immigrants and their descendants, out of the country's 82 total population.
A study showed last month that women and immigrants were more likely to get a job interview if applications were made without names.
The country is believed to be home to nearly 4 million Muslims, including 220,000 in Berlin alone. Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the Muslim minority.
Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.
Germany's daily Der Spiegel had warned last August that the country is becoming intolerant towards its Muslim minority.According to a 2010 nationwide poll by the research institute Infratest-dimap, more than one third of the respondents would prefer "a Germany without Islam."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net