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Germany

Opinion: Time for more pride in German constitution

The two main speeches on the 65th anniversary of the German constitution could mark a turning point, DW's Kay-Alexander Scholz believes. Both highlighted the text's strengths.

Wow. On the 65th anniversary of the Grundgesetz, or "basic law," two important celebrities in Germany - German President Joachim Gauck and German-Iranian writer Navid Kermani - are calling on Germans to rediscover their pride in the constitution.

In his commemorative speech to the German parliament, Kermani - a Muslim - compared the Grundgesetz to Luther's bible. The power of its words, said Kermani, created a reality after World War II which was not reflected in daily life in Germany at the time, and would take great effort to establish in the post-war era.

Kermani explained that the Grundgesetz' success lies in the universal values it enshrines, and in the beauty of its simple and modest words. It was a good document, he said. "This Germany is the best Germany that's ever existed," Kermani said, echoing the German president.

Ultimately, it was because of the Grundgesetz' appeal that the Kermani family emigrated to Germany. The constitution guarantees their personal freedoms here. After all, Germany has not become the second-most popular country for immigrants in the industrialized world due to jobs alone.

The Grundgesetz has helped form a democratic country that encourages relevant debate and exchange of differing opinion, and in which criticism can even be openly voiced during celebrations at the parliament. Kermani had called the Grundgesetz' rewritten Article 16 on asylum an "ugly spot." He said its chaotic collection of 275 words was an attempt to hide the fact that the basic right to asylum had in effect been abandoned in Germany.

And isn't it a sign of Germany's maturity as a state that a citizen who grew up in a different culture held this official speech?

President Gauck was right to stress the Grundgesetz' role as a "guideline" for immigration and co-existence of different cultures, to help create a new sense of German "we" in unity of diversity. With this, he liberated the public debate about immigration from the heavy burden of "Leitkultur," a German term that roughly translates to "dominant culture," and he forces Germans to acknowledge that they have everything they need: a constitution that provides a framework for the values of freedom and democracy, whose rules help prevent parallel societies.

But of course the Grundgesetz can only come to life through people's behavior. A bit of patriotism is needed for that - or shall we say: a love of the constitution.

Festive events certainly help. This latest celebration at the parliament was definitely a highlight. Kermani ended his moving speech with the words "Thank you, Germany!" I say: Thank you, Navid Kermani.