Monday, October 18, 2010

It depends what the meaning of tradition is

Wall Street Journal news article on the Merkel speech --

Ms. Merkel's party has railed against multiculturalism for years, arguing for the primacy of German Leitkultur, a term that evokes the country's Judeo-Christian traditions, as well as the principles of the age of the enlightenment.

When the case is being made for why the term "Judeo-Christian" is bogus, this usage should be in the file. Unless the definition is intended to include Christian treatment of the Jews.

But anyway. About this "Leitkultur" business. The dude who invented the term, Bassam Tibi, is an Arab Muslim, and there's not much evidence he intended it to mean Judeo-Christian. Over time it has expanded to mean a core "European" culture and thus most likely non-Islamic, but that's still a big step to get to the way the term is deployed in this article. Incidentally, at least as of 2006, Mr Tibi thought that it was the USA that had this stuff figured out --

SPIEGEL: But what is astounding is that you see yourself also as an example of failed integration. You have been working for 30 years at a German university, you have written 26 books in German and have been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit. Why, out of anyone, are you not integrated?

Tibi: It's more to do with a feeling of belonging. In Germany it is not a contradiction to say, Mr. Tibi is Syrian and has a German passport. In France however it is. And in America it would be a reason to take someone to court, as you are excluding them from American society. Even after 40 years here, I'm still not German. I also believe that I have not progressed higher as a professor here because I am a foreigner. When I retire I will be leaving Germany and going to Cornell university.

Worth an update for a pretty ugly 2010 in America.

UPDATE 29 OCTOBER: An op-ed in today's New York Times by Jürgen Habermas,  a participant in the multiculturalism debate --

It doesn’t make things any better that today leitkultur is defined not by “German culture” but by religion. With an arrogant appropriation of Judaism — and an incredible disregard for the fate the Jews suffered in Germany — the apologists of the leitkultur now appeal to the “Judeo-Christian tradition,” which distinguishes “us” from the foreigners.

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