Germany’s interior minister has come out in favour of a partial ban on the face veils worn by some Muslim women after a fierce national debate on integration.
Thomas de Maiziere said on Friday that the face veil does not belong in the European nation, where more than four million Muslims live.
“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,” he said after a meeting with regional counterparts from his conservative party, and using another term for face veil.
De Maiziere told public television that the face veil “does not belong in our cosmopolitan country”.
“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,” he said.
De Maiziere indicated that outlawing the face veil only under certain circumstances – as opposed to the blanket ban favoured by the hard-right of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Union bloc – would be “likely to win approval” in parliament.
Merkel’s right-left “grand coalition” holds an overwhelming majority in the Bundestag lower house.
De Maiziere’s position represents a compromise with the far-right before two key state elections next month in which the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party looks set to make strong gains.
Just last week he had rejected a call from conservative state interior ministers for a face veil ban, saying: “We can’t ban everything that we reject, and I reject the wearing of the burqa.”
He made the comments on August 11 as he unveiled tough new anti-terror measures after two attacks in Germany last month claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
The measures included a controversial proposal to strip attackers of their German nationality.
The security package also calls for deportations of convicted criminal migrants or refugees to be sped up and police resources to be boosted.
The AfD in particular has attempted to link the record influx of refugees and asylum seekers, many from the Middle East, to Germany last year with an increased threat of attacks – an argument Merkel sharply rejected this week on the campaign trail in her home district.
Germany’s face veil debate comes amid similar discussions in France, where at least three towns have banned women from wearing the “burkini”, a full length swimsuit covering the body.