Philosopher Jurgen Habermas: "You can′t force a Muslim woman to shake hands"

German philosopher Jurgen Habermas (photo: picture-alliance/dpa)

"A dominant German culture is utterly at odds with a liberal interpretation of the German constitution. A liberal constitution demands, namely, that the inherited majority culture of a country and its political culture – accessible to and imposed on all citizens – remain separate. The core of the latter is the constitution. As a result, minorities are able, as necessary, to assert their cultural rights legally, thereby allowing them to uphold their own way of life within the framework of a common political culture. You can′t force a Muslim woman to shake hands with Mr de Maiziere, for instance.

On the other hand, civil society should expect immigrant citizens to become acquainted with the political culture – even if that′s impossible to enforce. This includes understanding the historical context of their new home, which feeds off the way citizens of the country see themselves and, more importantly, off how constitutional principles are interpreted. Within the current of a living democratic culture of debate, however, the nature of political culture is also in flux. Those who have newly acquired citizenship and a country′s established citizenry are equally entitled to contribute to its development and transformation. Today′s successful writers, film directors, actors, journalists and academics born of Turkish ″guest-worker″ parents are prime examples of just what a defining impact such voices can have. Any attempt to couch a dominant culture in legal terms therefore not only contravenes a liberal interpretation of the German constitution, it is also wholly unrealistic."    (Die Rheinische Post)

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