Deutsche Leitkultur

A Debate on German Culture and Identity

By
Liebig14 Demo
Deutsche Leitkultur : A Debate on German Culture and Identity - Verena Ringler

"The Germans lose their minds whenever they want to find themselves." -Kurt Tucholsky

In October 2000, Friedrich Merz, German Federal Parliament floor leader of the Christian Democratic coalition championed a controversial proposal that immi­grants should adopt a Deutsche Leitkultur, translated as German "guiding culture" Gr "leading culture."1 Backed by his party, CDU, and its conservative sister party, CSU, which have both been in opposition to the Social Democratic Party (SDP)/ Green Party coalition since 1998, Merz wants his appeal to be understood as a long ­awaited acknowledgement by the conservative ranks2 that Germany is a land of immigration thus necessitating the discussion of how to guarantee social peace given the expected relative decline of the ethnic German population in the decades ahead. Despite the seemingly good intentions of Merz' policy, the CDU, in deep crisis after Helmut Kohl's donations scandal, has in fact won votes in recent regional elections due to a more stringent anti-immigrant tone. Suspicion arises, and instantly, the ramifications of Merz' word creation penetrate all layers of German society and stir international reactions.3 Numerous intellectuals, however, go beyond hackneyed ideological positions in their attempt to discuss serenely and sophisticatedly whether a Deutsche Leitkultur exists and what it comprises, whether it should exist, or must not exist.

This essay attempts to unwrap the complex palimpsest underlying the idea of Deutsche Leitkultur. Five layers may be identified. The "zero" layer, an "invisible" layer, is a spontaneous conclusion from the point of view of an unknowing observer who takes Deutsche Leitkultur at face value. Being, as it is, unconscious for the observer, the layer is considered indiscernible. The first visible layer is the reality we witness: the debate itself, its background, conduct, and repercussions as well as the hype surrounding the ominous term Deutsche Leitkultur. The second, and deeper, layer is the historical context. Culture, in the course of German history, was often used either to bring about or to carry out the political projects connected with cru­cial moments in German history in 1871, 1918, 1933, 1945, and 1989. The third layer links the present point of history with the actual debate and includes four arguments against Deutsche Leitkultur. The fourth, or core, layer consists of the religious controversy, the fear of a loss of Christianity and an increased influence of Islam, which may be perceived as the real motivation for Merz' verbal outpouring. The conclusion leads to a call for democratic change on the part of the host country, and one for religious change on the part of the citizens having chosen this new home country. All layers except for the invisible one lead to a rejection of Deutsche Leitkultur due to bizarre rhetorical moves of the conservatives in the first layer, the abuse of a biased word in the second layer, the ignorance of social reality in the third layer, and the attempt to conceal a significant issue that Germany should discuss in a constructive manner in the fourth layer.

Appearance vs. Reality

The invisible layer includes three scenarios where a debate could be legiti­mate and fruitful under the title of Deutsche Leitkultur. The first setting is a neu­tral context of political ideas, where Deutsche Leitkultur could be accepted as the perspective of a strongly communitarian thinker. The second scenario envisions a setting of legal instability in which a parallel legal structure emerges and leads to, for example, Muslim immigrant communities exercising law and order in a sub­system indifferent to the German rule of law. The final example portrays a demo­graphic change so drastic that perhaps a Muslim majority could, through demo­cratic means, change the constitution and introduce the sharia for the state of Ger­many. Ultimately, however, it should be emphasized that such scenarios are alto­gether too theoretical and unrealistic to be sufficient to justify Merz' program.

The Uses and Abuses of History

The first visible layer reveals the actual debate at a level that we can observe. The real effect of Merz' linguistic creation has been to inspire not only a debate on admittance (immigration) and membership (citizenship) of non-Germans, but a fun­damental debate on German identity and nationhood a decade after unification as well.4 Commentary on the provocative term has emerged along the traditional ideo­logical fault lines between left and right political parties, the media, and pressure groups. Even so, many conservatives both in and outside the Party claim bitter opposition to Merz' word creation. Still, the CDU includes the need for Deutsche Leitkultur in its party program announced in November 2000. Despite the elimina­tion of the more aggressive public statements of some leading Party figures (e.g. "against a random cultural mix," "we are still no traditional immigration country, and we never will or can be," "cultures must not meet on an equal basis in Ger­many"), the definition of Deutsche Leitkultur nevertheless is based on a set of val­ues (Wertekanon) of Christian-occidental character, juxtaposed to a multi-cultural society and arbitrary values (Wertebeliebiglieit)."5 Given the mutual com1ensus across ideological fault lines that immigrants must comply fully with German legal re­quirements of the state and should learn the German language, it is understand­able that Merz' policy raises suspicion among Germans of all ranks and position. This is not only due to the offensive public statements that Merz and his followers express until widespread outcry forces them to retreat to the basics of constitu­tional patriotism. Citizens' own intuitive suspicions also tell them that if the CDU is so supportive of Deutsche Leitkultur, the concept must mean much more than what is immediately obvious and readily agreed upon.

Alert observers of the debate can discern that the true controversy is of a religious nature. What riles the Merz fraction is neither the competition between doner kebab and würstel nor the resuscitated and alarming aggression from far ­right groups (on the contrary, many Germans even suggest that Merz' party aims to attract voters from the far-right through the Deutsche Leitkultur position). Rather, it is the fear of the decline of Christianity's moral and social penetration of German society both in absolute and relative terms as Islamic influence grows. This pre­sents, in connection with the admittance and citizenship question, a new and differ­ent challenge for the Germans. Until last year, Germany defined immigration and citizenship through ethnicity and thus descent and bloodlines, in contrast to ex­colonial powers such as Great Britain and France, which have been deciding mat­ters of inclusion or exclusion based on territory and democratic tradition.

The lines of the debate must be understood against the background of the German conservatives' relationship to the Holocaust. They tend to detest the idea that Auschwitz should be associated with anything specifically German as they attempt to build a positive, patriotic notion for generations to come. Furthermore, they have left the task of reconciliation with the Jews to the left. "No reproach from the well-known arsenal of political correctness in this country has been spared,"6 Friedrich Merz declares angrily in defense of his use of terminology such as Deutsche Leitkultur. CDU party leader Angela Merkel resorts to an old conservative view that the Social Democrats had "a broken relationship to the German nation" (ein gespaltenes Verhaltnis zur Nation).7 It should be emphasized that in Germany, atti­tudes towards the Holocaust, questions of national identity, and opinions on immi­gration issues are a deeply interconnected triumvirate. Consequently, regarding immigration, the conservatives position themselves in favor of restriction, tight laws, and integration, which for many means assimilation. In short, the conservatives allow themselves to be proud of Germany more easily than their left-wing counter­parts. The latter, including the current government in Berlin, are still often accused of shaping national identity, in the tradition of Nietzsche or the critical liter­ary and political left-wing movements of the 1960s, around their hatred for Ger­many.8 The Social Democrats and Green partisans despise the idea of Deutsche Leitkultur as an inflammatory departure from Germany's post-war embrace of a muted identity within a unifying Europe. "In Germany, you wave the flag and at a certain point, you arrive at the remembrance of Auschwitz," stated Joschka Fischer, the Green Foreign Minister. He continues: "You try to be a patriot here, you love your country, you accept the heritage, and then you discover you cannot love the heritage. It is always a broken patriotism born of a broken history."9

In addition to these political party reactions, the notion of Deutsche Leitkultur has stirred numerous other reactions. From the moment of its inception, the discus­sion has been intertwined with other issues prevalent in German domestic politics. Immediate repercussions are felt within the Jewish community, whose president Paul Spiegel announces full scale opposition to the new terminology.10 Commenta­tors and scholars dwell on right wing extremism, on the crisis of the CDU, on the preponderance of American culture, and on the tendency for immigrant communi­ties to evolve into ghettos. Some ask relentlessly; "What is 'German'?; and multiple essays culminate in the fragile question of whether Germans at any point in the future might and should be proud enough of themselves in order to provide a Leitkultur for others. The foreign press, especially the American and the French press, reacts with patronizing wrath.11 They criticize the conservative thrust for bearing echoes of Nazi ideas of racial supremacy and for calling for German hege­mony in Europe. Even the European Commission, under the auspices of Antonio Vitorino, Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, adds a special message for the German conservatives to a paper concerning migration issues: "although the Commission notes the importance of values and principles, it promotes openly a shift from a Deutsche Leitkultur idea towards a double-sided integration process, which requires mutual adoption from both the indigenous population and the for­eign one."12

Despite its unclear definition,13 the artificial word creation of Deutsche Leitkultur soon became a daily subject of discussion in German newspapers from the elegant Feuilleton to small provincial papers. The debate reached its peak in late November and early December 2000. Until the end of January 2001, Deutsche Leitkultur has been subject to analysis in well over 2000 German and international news articles. The term made a rapid advance towards achieving the status of a generally used term, so that one finds it in the realm of sports, music, and history. Not surprisingly, Deutsche Leitkultur received the most German votes to win the title of "anti-word of the year" (Unwort des Jahres).14

The Deutsche Leitkultur debate so far reveals, piece by piece, that the histori­cal context exists as the second layer in the palimpsest. Culture in Germany had served as vehicle for multiple, often unadmirable, ideologies. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, first the German Enlightenment and then romanticism fos­tered the idea of the "cultural nation." The young European German Empire sought an identifying glue to motivate people to fight for Prussia and to create a spirit of national identity which had not existed during the centuries of a lose and ever changing patchwork of German states. Hence, since the beginning of the nineteenth century, culture had been the "emergency" factor in the creation· of German na­tional identity. Ethnic culture emerging of the home soil should, on a higher (cen­tral) level culminate in a national "folk spirit." The latter was to serve as the cen­terpiece in the Nazis' organized abuse of culture and be affirmed by federalist laws on cultural policy after 1945.15

The first and most articulate opponent against the early propaganda of Ger­man superiority was Nietzsche, who denounced German nationalism and racial hatred as "a scabies of the heart and blood poisoning."16 He refused to participate in the "utterly false racial self-admiration and perversion which today displays itself in Germany."17 He predicted that the new German national state would annihilate the German spirit. Hence Nietzsche emphasized repeatedly that it was specifically German that the Germans would never tire of asking themselves ''What is 'Ger­man'?" His concept would have never been called Deutsche Leitkultur, however. Rather, Nietzsche insisted that the search for values be the fundamental and per­manent concern of thoughtful men; values could not be defined once and for all, but had to be submitted to constant re-examination. His own supreme value was cul­ture and its creation, and he would never tire of praising the artist, philosopher, or statesman who would, as a truly creative spirit, override old traditions by creating new laws and new forms.

This mirrors the flaw so often cited about Bismarckean Germany. Helmuth Plessner spoke in 1935 in his book, The Belated Nation, about Bismarck's Germany as an invention solely driven by power, as an "Empire without the idea of a state," without any cohesive force which had been rooted in Great Britain and France in their national pillars. But Bismarck knew perfectly well how to manipulate his policies with the word "culture." It was "the codeword for chauvinism, and hence a specific trait about the belated nation."18 Bismarck used as a foothold. the connota­tions of "culture" prepared so thoroughly by romanticist writers and under the label of "Kulturkampf," as he embarked .on a terrible fight against Catholics and Social Democrats which sealed Germany's constant confrontation with France.

This antagonistic relationship hurt Germany much more deeply than just po­litically, argues Gustav Seibt in an essay in the liberal German weekly Die Zeit. According to Seibt,

France had been the nation which, in both attraction and repulsion, had provided the Germans with the most valuable cultural stimulation. Since the liberation wars against Napoleon, German nationalism has consolidated itself as a defense-mecha­nism, which is in its roots hostile against anything foreign and cosmopolitan.19

In what culminated in the over-estimated strength and pride of Germany on the eve of World War I, the elite enthusiastically called for "cultural mobilization" (geistige Mobilmachung). Full ranks of university professors subscribed to German bellicosity. In addition, the view of "cultural pessimism," as promoted by Thomas, gave impetus to an aggressive, superior Germany. Mann spoke strongly in favor of the war and of German tradition, thereby combining aggressively national­ist and racist notions of German superiority with democratic, supranational con­cepts. All of his ideas were connected to his adamant stance on the exemplary role of German art. He praised German musical, metaphysical, pedagogical, and subjec­tive culture, contrasting it with the more analytical, skeptical, political, and objec­tivist civilization of the West. Later, he was seen as a traitor because he suggested that cultural and political isolation would not serve the nation well.

With the historical break of 1933, Hitler merely had to modify the notion of "culture" in order to further intensify its function as a political tool. "German cul­ture" now epitomized racial supremacy and the justified battle of the indigenous German race for world hegemony. The "new human being'' (neuer Mensch) should, without scruples and moral constraints, realize the futurist vision derived from the past.2 0 Whether one considers "culture" in the narrow sense of art or in the wider sense of "civilization," the Nazis' aim was to eliminate individual opinion and spirit on all levels and to construct a monolithic German society which the Nazi regime praised for being perfectly cultivated, but was in fact neutered from all forces of pluralism, democracy, and tolerance.

The turning point, 1945, was one of German division and European integration. Hence a quest for German identity was, especially through the policy of Konrad Adenauer, projected upon Europe, and the past was swiftly overshadowed by a concentration on economic recovery. Emphasis was also placed on the ideological divide between East and West, creating deep cultural differences in the realm of political and economic liberty. "For over forty years, division effectively guaranteed that two rival versions of German identity would coexist,'' writes William M. Chan­dler.21 According to his analysis, the new integration and identity problem caused by unification following the historical break of 1989 is as important as the political and economic challenges associated with unification. Chandler states: "In political discourse, this version of the identity question has been concerned with immediate divergent priorities as well as with an indeterminate potential for a deep cultural divide between citizens in the old Federal Republic and those in the new Lander."22 Furthermore, the hitherto unresolved question of how Germans and non-Germans relate to each other had gained importance due to then unresolved issues of immigration, citizenship, and multiculturalism. Post-unification, those topics have be­come even more deeply enmeshed within the evolving identity question.

History could mean that today, after the first truly democratic change of a government in a united Germany in 1998, there exists the chance to reconcile the repeated abuse of "culture" with the still unresolved issue of identity. But the gov­ernment efforts in this regard do not always find approval within the conservative opposition. One solution might be to promote constitutional patriotism, a simple consensus pattern of identity first proposed by the German philosopher Juergen Habermas in the 1960s.23 This formulation of identity would involve the acceptance of an inherently diverse Germany and a reliance on the legal system to answer certain questions about identity. With this and other identity concepts available, why, then, do Merz and his followers resort to the highly normative and historically biased term of "culture,'' especially when they talk about what it means to be "German."

Such a move could be seen as a form of resurrected German universalism. The idea that there is now an unchallenged and meta-historical tendency towards mar­ket economy, liberal democracy, economic well-being, and a high regard of the indi­vidual now dominates. Thus, post-unity (and particularly conservative-rank) Ger­many proclaims "federal republicanism" for all, a message intended especially for East Germany and for (an ever unifying) Europe. But in reconnecting with the cultural nationalism of the German Enlightenment, German universalism aims at new horizons of inclusion and thereby taboos the question of who may actually claim to be "we;" that is, who is one of ours and who remains a foreigner, who is a citizen and who is a co-opted resident. The cultural nation of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries answered this question by barbaric means. Today, the answer remains open.

Contradictions and Complications

The understanding of Deutsche Leitkultur now reaches the third layer, which will include four general arguments against Merz' conceptualization. The first ar­gument, most broadly, is that I disapprove of a political debate being masked as a cultural one. Any debate on immigration and citizenship policy is of a purely politi­cal nature. The problem is that if Deutsche Leitkultur enters the fray, so may (and do) exclamations about the "over-infiltration of foreigners" (Uberfremdung). There­fore, a call for Leitkultur is more a gift for rightist activists than a contribution to the vocabulary of people who seek to balance multi-culturalism and its danger of parallel societies with integration and its danger of forced assimilation of foreign­ers. Deutsche Leitkultur affirms the ideas of people who are prone to see their own heritage and behavior as the sole legitimate point of reference. Thus, I understand some critical voices that saw in the CDU's move an attempt to gain votes from the right. Even if Merz and his partisans had in mind a call upon tolerance, they chose a hopelessly wrong word.

But I cannot even give them this chance. As tolerance carries the connotation of the concrete acceptance of all existing differences, this would again preclude the active, thus assimilating, requirement of adoption of Deutsche Leitkultur that Merz has urged. Why then should he feel the need to invoke the notion of "culture" just at the moment when the bloodline nationalism of the citizenship laws of 1913 is not to be held anymore?24 Inevitably, this term biased so deeply through romanticism, can be turned into a tool against the idea of individual autonomy. The attribute of "guiding'' even goes beyond a reference to romanticism. It is in fact an example of the increasingly complex criteria of inclusion and exclusion. As Uwe Mattheis in­terprets, "the term 'Leitkultur' defines a 'we' of absolute inclusion, which, when economic utility demands it, can be enlarged by a selected group of persons of relative inclusion. Hence, Indian high-tech specialists are useful, po­litical refugees are not."25

The second argu­ment is the difficulty of finding the right dose when calling upon Ger­man self-esteem. One might question on whether what is consid­ered "German'' is worthy of serving as the guiding element, in…a pluralistic and open society. Many contributors to the debate acknowledge that "Germanness" is not necessarily an ideal point from which to claim leadership over anyone. This notion recalls almost instantly the parole: "Along the German spirit, the world should heal'' (Am deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen) which, stemming again from romanticism, saw its most distorted realization of all in the terror of the twentieth century. Indeed, many surveys confirm that even today, the Germans display the weakest sense of na­tional pride among European citizens. But should they adopt permanent self-ef­facement and detest instinctively any calls for a reconciled patriotism? I do not believe so. Nevertheless I assess a problematic and critical form of patriotism to be in fact more effective, morally justifiable, historically realistic, and more genuine than the jingoism displayed by German conservatives or the rightwing Freedom Party in Austria. Even if this concept of "enlightened" patriotism reflects the con­tradictions and tensions in national history, I prefer an inclusive patriotism with inherent conflicts to a sunshine patriotism with deliberate historical holes such as that promoted by German conservatives who defend Deutsche Leitkultur.

For Germany, the only opportunity to increase political influence or demon­strate national strength is by proving genuine progressiveness instead of perpetu­ating the notion of a national cohesion and homogeneity which neither exists nor is applauded abroad. It is neither economic strength nor jingoism which could sup­port these justifications, as I assume the first to be too apolitical to constitute na­tional strength entirely, and the latter to be the most obvious statement of national insecurity, masked with an instrumentalist use or abuse of history. A more trust­worthy position of national strength, however, can be achieved by practicing a very advanced version of democracy, 26 which entails an equally advanced policy of immi­gration. It would mean the acceptance of ever more fluid interaction, loose alli­ances, and complex formations of identity.27 As the publicist Norbert Bolz describes:

"We have to learn these days to understand culture not as identity, but as differ­ence."28 That this does not automatically entail pessimism has also been under­stood by Thomas Rosengarten, according to whom, "Germany, after Prussia and Weimar and the tragic history of assimilating German Jews which ended in catas­trophe, has a second chance to learn how to deal with the other. But this means to discern what the other was and to be ready to let ourselves get confused and im­pressed by it. However, this has nothing to do with 'guiding' but with the tension between integration and the preservation of cultural identity."29

The third general argument against Deutsche Leitkultur is Merz' ignorance of trends in civilization, which show a decline of homogeneity derived from ethnic, territorial, or religious foundations. Thus this point puts into question the prerequi­sites for Deutsche Leitkultur, namely the existence of any social homogeneity. It leads to the conclusion that Deutsche Leitkultur is an obsolete wish given existing social patterns, and a backward-oriented view if Merz' aim is to see current pat­terns change. Americanism seems the most prevalent modern source for the forma­tion of individual identity. The film producer Guenter Rohrbach Rosenberger sends a clear message to the advocates of Deutsche Leitkultur when he writes:

The call upon this is a cunning idea to conserve national stocks. While the young elite is wooed away by global Americanism, new-coming Africans, Turks, or Indians are urged to comply with a cultural vestige under threat. Thus they are called to become conservators. At the end of the day, the foreigners should save not only our social system, but our culture as well. 30

Rohrbach's statement touches on the fourth general argument against Deutsche Leitkultur: the issue of what is actually perceived by Germans and non-Germans as "German culture."31 Josef Joffe, in a reactionary pamphlet in the liberal weekly Die Zeit, seems to be most thoroughly self-entertained when defining, under the title Lust auf Leit (The Lust for the Lead), that "German culture is metaphysics and folk character (Volkstum), it is Goethe on the shelf and the lime tree (Linde) above the bench."32 He concludes, "The Anglo-Saxons have a much easier task for culture. There, it is a wild potpourri. It is Shakespeare and language, Declaration of Inde­pendence and Queen, Coke and tea, blues and Britain, Donald Duck and Francis Bacon."33 Mr. Joffe should consider himself lucky not to be standing for elections, as his brew thickens: "Even the firmest multiculti34 cannot admit that every culture is of the same value and rights. Only the individual is."35 Joffe does not stand alone in praising Germanness. In the debate, many elements of popular culture and petty issues from Michael Schuhmacher's cars to the TV-hit Big Brother are put forward. But while Joffe is serious on his theory, the latter contributions mostly stem from joking and cynical texts. The objective explanation is still a conundrum.

What is really perceived as the core of "culture" then? On the one hand, the strong influence of the Lander in Germany reveals in many ways that, again in the romanticist spirit, the naive, but well-intended, struggle to belong somewhere iden­tifies countryside and religion, with their allegedly unsullied traditions and pat­terns of behavior as the ideal refuge. Hence to many Germans, this sheltered province seems to be felt as the core of "culture." An important dimension of this prov­ince, religion, then, lies at the center of identity and the contemporary debate on Deutsche Leitkultur.

The Centrality of Religion

The fourth and core layer underneath the rhetoric move of "German guiding culture" is that of religion, as in Europe, the cleavage between an "host society" and a "guest society'' can still be largely understood in terms of religion. For Germany, one may interpret the desperate call upon Deutsche Leitkultur as a defensive at­tempt by the waning power of Christianity and corresponding social and political disintegration to regain ground in the face of the strongly exercised power of Is­lamic societies. Merz has thus begun the attempt to rearrange the playing field where a group that is still considered inappropriate to shape German society for the future displays a relatively stronger cohesion and expected influence than the origi­nally rooted society does and wants. The intuition is that Merz' mere statement of a Leitkultur, which implies the existence of a second, "guided," and hence inferior, culture, can well be interpreted as a demand that Christian legal and moral values should not be surrendered to Islamic influence. By its nature, a Christian conserva­tive party such as Merz' CDU is rather inclined to preserve the traditional ideas than to embark on new ones. Still, new concepts do exist. But in Germany they are manifest in multiple secularized patterns of social cohesion. In addition, it is neces­sary to explain why particularly in Germany, religion deserves to be indicated as lying at the root of the debate on Deutsche Leitkultur: in Germany, the settlement of a religious quest for conserving power is much more deeply intertwined with a vision and definition of a future society than in other European countries.

Germany is enthusiastically defined as a secular nation. But the process of secularization is not yet complete, as the dismantling of the institutional forces of religious cohesion is still underway. Does this waning power directly translate into a vacuum? According to the German political theorist Max Weber, the answer would be "no," as he predicted that enlightenment and modernization would bring about the demystification of the world. Yet apparently he was wrong, as secular societies still display a longing for mystical and religious meaning. But in modern society the demand for religion is often realized in flexible, diverse, and oscillating forms, namely, in a variety of "cults." Whether these cults exist as a particular kind of sport, a codified rubric of partying and clubbing, a demand for esoteric practices, or a cel­ebration of consumption, such cults provide new and sometimes strong formal pa­rameters of integration. One may state therefore that the traditional religions to­day are judged by their functions, achievements, and values relative to the culture in which they are prevalent. That is, cultures are not judged by their religions, but religions are judged culturally.

If we agree that for a long time to come, we will we live in societies the frame­works of which are determined by religion, then the question arises how democracy and multiple "cults" can be reconciled with the process we would call culture. It seems that democracy needs certain cults whereas the cults do not need democracy. Thus we face an asymmetry, the understanding of which is a political task. Do European, occidental political cultures understand this less than the mostly Islamic immigrant population? According to the German cardinal Josef Ratzinger, who represents the German Bishop Council in the Vatican, the failure to address this issue is indeed at the roots of current insecurity of Christianity, or more precisely, of a Christian Democratic party such as Mertz'. Ratzinger claims that the European Charter of Basic Rights (Grundrechtscharta) should have incorporated Christian values, because "the writing down of basic human rights and of rule of law include an image of humans (Menschenbild), a moral option and an idea of law that are not at all universal, but basic factors of European identity. These values can only be defended if a consciousness on their existence is constantly re-erected." Could Merz have meant this? A call upon the Christian legacy that should not be subsumed by an allegedly too dominant Islamic influence? It may well be, as even the opponents of theories of looming religious mega-confrontations and a clash of civilizations can­not deny, that particularly in Europe, all cohesive links previously binding the Chris­tian churches have been unraveling rapidly in both absolute and relative terms. In contrast, these forces of cohesion seem to function extremely well among Islamic groups, who present the numerically strongest group of foreigners in Germany.

Who and what should change to overcome what is perceived as a social threat by the proponents of Deutsche Leitkultur? The German political scientist and scholar of Islam, Bassam Tibi writes:

The German society needs to provide not only a passport, but a democratic identity. The Islamic side has to abstain from the religious implications of migration in order to build the prerequisite for the wish for integration. I detest any form of mission. And I see it as imperative for Muslim migrants to abandon the doctrine of hidschra, 36 even if it has to be acknowledged that the wave of migration of the twentieth cen­tury is no deliberate result of hidschra but of economic hardship.37

A well-known voice calling repeatedly for a reformation of lslam, Tibi knows he has foes in Germany. He accuses the Turk, and hence largely Muslim, population of practicing a more fundamental form of Islam than is prevalent in their country of origin. This behavior, according to Tibi, jeopardizes social integration through the building of exclaves. He emphasizes that Islam should only be accepted in the frame­work of religious pluralism in Europe, which requires loyalty to secular civil societ­ies and pluralist democracy. But Tibi also accuses the German political culture of "taboo-zones" which inhibit an open discussion on the status of Islam. Tibi argues that Muslims, through political integration, can well adopt a European identity. Yet, this works only through political means, as double-citizenship is possible whereas double-religious membership is not.

That Islamic groups have not yet had the chance and have not yet taken the initiative to achieve secular and political integration opens an even wider gap be­tween the two sides, as does the perceived vacuum of values and Christian legacy in today's Europe. But there is a second vacuum within the host society, one of politi­cal nature. The question arises as to why in Germany, but not in other European countries, such as France or Great Britain, are these issues at the root of so much controversy? ''Merz' word creation appears to identify a vacuum that exists in Ger­many on the spot where immigrant societies have an assimilatory attraction that enables them to integrate foreigners, but still to keep their own identity,"38 writes Gustav Seibt. Of course, there has also been racism in France and Great Britain, but both established much earlier a more unconditional form of integration than Germany. France achieved it through the democracy-inspired concept of citoyen and with the attempt to develop a form of lslam with a European-French character. Great Britain practiced a policy of citizenship through the quasi-egalitarian Com­monwealth idea of the Muslim subject of the Empire. This granted Muslims the British passport of the Commonwealth. 39 Coming back to Tibi, this suggests that even if Germany has finally abandoned the determination of German citizenship through ethnic exclusion, the general understanding still rests upon the view that qualifications for inclusion are hard to access for Muslims. Thus, the equation "non­ German equals foreigner equals Turk equals Muslim equals political and economic underclass" still holds true, and there remain obstacles to a mutually acceptable form of integration.

The conclusion of this core layer is that change is needed on both sides to guarantee social peace and integration, and to preclude a need for a misplaced call upon Deutsche Leitkultur. Change means here more democratic inclusion from the host country, and less religious reference where social and economic openness are expected from the "hosted" population. This leads back to the very point of depar­ture of this essay: as the conservatives feel, if positively interpreted, the need to set out patterns for peaceful integration of the growing Islamic population, they would do well to promote this debate but not deviate from its core ideas through bizarre and counter-productive rhetorical moves.

Notes