Home » Democracy must not be infused but rather explained

Democracy must not be infused but rather explained

| More

The recent introduction in many European countries of the citizenship test for the immigrants has caused quite many controversies. Is it the same thing to know the Constitution and to express one’s enthusiasm for the host country, even though in a fake way?
To what extent are such evidences compatible with the liberal principles that are the foundations of Western democracy?
To sum up, the usefulness of the evidences as such are not being questioned, but rather the way they are applied. The land of liberalism and of millions of immigrants, the United States, have introduced for many years, with a certain success, the tests and oath of allegiance to the flag as a prerequisite for the achievement of the status civitatis.
And what about Europe?
Some examples might be of help to clear up the question.
The case of Great Britain is quite sensational. Where tests verify the capability of applicants to adjust to the life style of British people.
For instance, what can make the difference is the habit of queuing to get on the bus or enter a cinema or simply drink a tea.
While in Germany, until not long ago only those immigrants coming from a country belonging to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference where subjected to an oral test of the German language. For all the rest of immigrants, instead, it was enough to reply to a multiple choice questionnaire.
These examples are not at all exceptional, they show how subtle the line is between respect and denial of the liberal principles in the elaboration of tests for the immigrants. In other words, this instrument is useful to verify if the new citizen is aware of the rights and duties of the host society. To go beyond,  by curbing individual freedoms is the same as introducing a new form of liberalism: the repressive one. From this perspective, for example, the ban of the veil – not to be confused with the burqa (total veil) – as an essential viaticum to live in a western democracy is at least a paradox.
An yet, it would be enough to read an extract of the sentence of the U.S. Court of Appeal of 1944: “patriotism […] in the same way as the love for democracy is not a necessary requisite in order to obtain citizenship. What really counts is the aptitude to respect our laws and the fundamental political principles of our society.”(1)

by Giuseppe Terranova, WEST

____________________
1) Gordon S. Integrating Immigrants: Morality and Loyalty in US Naturalization Practice in Citizenship Studies, Volume 11, Issue 4 September 2007, page 371

The italian version of the article can be found on WEST web site