BERLIN: Germany could impose a ban on women wearing burkas or full-face Islamic veils at schools and universities, and while driving. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the burka "does not belong in our cosmopolitan country".
"We all reject the full veil. Not only the burka but also other types of full veil that only leave the eyes visible. They have no place in our society," he said. The proposal does not impose a complete ban, and instead has launched something called a "burka ban lite" which will apply to women working as public officials, attending public demonstrations, and in court. "Showing your face is essential for our communication, co-existence and social cohesion and that's why we're asking everyone to show their faces. We want to introduce a law to make people show their faces and that means that those who break that law will have to face the consequences," said de Maizere.
The new policy was agreed upon in a meeting between the minister and interior ministers of the 16 federal states where the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) is in power. The proposal needs support from the party's coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD) to become a law. Employment and Social Affairs Minister, Andrea Nahles called the ban a sign of "increasingly xenophobic" debate in the country which would make it difficult to integrate immigrants.
The policy is likely to be largely symbolic as, unlike in other European countries which have imposed bans, burkas and full-face veils are already extremely rare in Germany. There are around four million Muslims in Germany, about 5 per cent of the population. A study in 2009 found more than two thirds of Muslim women in Germany wear no hair or face covering.
Calls for a burka ban have been largely led by the CDU ministers of two regions holding elections next month - Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Berlin - where the party is under pressure from the Right-wing anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party.