"Leitkultur" à la CDU is clumsy and counterproductive

Bonn - The CDU rehashes the topic of "Leitkultur" in its new policy programme. Andreas Püttmann criticises the fact that it effectively places Muslims under general suspicion. He comments: Others are more to be feared than any burqa.

Published  on 15.12.2023 at 00:01  – by Andreas Püttmann

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It is a kind of "Nessie" of German politics, the "Leitkultur" that repeatedly appears in CDU rhetoric like the monster from Loch Ness: from Jörg Schönbohm in 1998 to Friedrich Merz in 2000, Norbert Lammert in 2005, CDU and CSU manifestos in 2007, Markus Blume's, Johannes Singhammer's and Michael Kretschmer's "Appeal" in 2016 to Thomas de Maizière's 2017 catalogue of etiquette in "Bild": "We show our face. We are not burqas." The draft of the CDU's 2023 policy programme demands: "All those who want to live here must recognise our dominant culture without any ifs or buts." The exclusion of any objection sounds authoritarian. The "tradition of enlightenment" is proudly invoked: Does this not thrive on questioning what is currently valid? So aren't "ifs and buts" part of the leading European culture? The Bible advises scepticism: "Test everything, keep what is good." Wasn't marriage between a man and a woman still considered "our dominant culture" 30 years ago? And 70 years ago, the subordination of women to the "head of the family"?

The CDU initially defines the guiding culture in terms of the values of the Basic Law: respect for human dignity, fundamental rights, the rule of law, tolerance, respect, protection of minorities, separation of church and state, equal rights for men and women, recognition of Israel's right to exist. That's right! But then it explicitly demands "more than the Basic Law": "understanding of our traditions and customs, voluntary work and club life, German culture and language as well as our history and the resulting responsibility" plus "awareness of home and belonging". Only those who make an "explicit commitment to our values, principles and rules" and are prepared to "adapt to our way of life" are "invited" to become citizens. So more than integration: assimilation!

The tightening up culminates in special treatment for Muslims, whose suitability as the only group is questioned by name, including emphasising "political Islam" in the fight against extremism - although right-wing extremism now represents the greater danger.

To bring up "Leitkultur" in this way and even prescribe highly personal feelings of homeland is hypertrophic, clumsy, invasive, counterproductive and a contradiction in terms: because here, contrary to two Leitkultur criteria, a religious minority, which is already permanently insulted by the far more numerous German fascists, is in fact placed under general suspicion and pilloried. What positive effect is this intended to have? Meanwhile, hordes of so-called "bio-Germans" are failing daily to fulfil the CDU's criteria for "German Leitkultur". Starting with the flawed German of their mostly anonymous hate posts on social media. "We show our face"? Not at all! The even parliamentary "people's comrades", behind whose resentment the Merz CDU is opportunistically panting, are more to be feared than any burka.

by Andreas Püttmann

The author

Andreas Püttmann is a political scientist and freelance journalist in Bonn.

Please note

The views expressed are solely those of the author.