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Friday, August 19, 2016

German Interior Minister Calls for Partial Burqa Ban

© Regis Duvignau / Reuters

The German interior minister has advocated a partial burqa ban amid a debate on the integration of Muslim refugees. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that a “completely covered” woman has almost “no chance of integrating” herself into German society.

Ahead of a meeting with regional representatives of the German Conservative Party (DKP), German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told journalists that wearing a full veil in Germany “has no place in our country and… does not comply with our understanding of the role of women.”

About 5 million Germans are Muslims, making up 5 percent of the total population.

Having met with regional representatives of the Conservatives, the minister said: “We agree that we reject the burqa, we agree that we want to introduce a legal requirement to show one's face in places where it is necessary for our society's coexistence: at the wheel, at public offices, at the registry office, in schools and universities, in the civil service, in court.” 

The Muslim burqa – a full-body covering –  “does not belong in our cosmopolitan country,” the interior minister said, stressing that wearing a burqa will be prohibited in certain public places, but not as a cultural practice.

“We want to show our faces to each other and that is why we agree that we reject this. The question is how we put this into law,” de Maiziere said.

In turn, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) group of newspapers that, in her opinion, “a completely covered woman has almost no chance of integrating herself in Germany.”

The head of the German government did not, however, go as far as expressing unconditional support to the idea of a burqa ban, stressing that "This is a question of finding the right political and legal balance, and Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has my full support in finding a solution,” TheLocal.de reported her as saying.

The bill implies banning burqas from public offices – namely schools, universities, kindergartens and child care institutions, in government offices and courts (members of the jury and witnesses included), in registrar and civil registration offices, at passport and transport controls, during rallies and demonstrations, also while driving a vehicle.

De Maiziere made it clear that the “blanket ban” on burqas suggested by the right wing of the ruling Christian Union bloc is a non-starter, but expressed hope that the Bundestag lower house would support the current bill.

The burqa ban bill presents a compromise with the hardline right wing of Merkel’s right-left “grand coalition” ahead of two key state elections next month, where the populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is expected to show gains.

Back in 2009, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees held a poll which revealed that two out of three Muslim women in Germany did not even wear a headscarf, let alone burqa or niqab – which fully covers the head, except for the eyes.

I wonder if that is still true today?

In Merkel’s cabinet, Labor Minister Andrea Nahles, representing the junior partner in Merkel's ruling coalition, the Social Democrats (SPD), said the burqa ban demands prove that political discourse in Germany is becoming “increasingly xenophobic,” Reuters reported.