German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have agreed that Muslim women should be banned from wearing the full-face burqa Islamic veil in schools and universities and while driving, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Friday, as a debate on integration rages after two jihadist attacks.
The call by de Maiziere also comes as Merkel’s government attempts to address public fears surrounding last year’s record influx of migrants and refugees, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We unanimously reject the burqa, it does not fit with our liberal-minded society,” De Maiziere told ZDF television. However he stopped short of proposing an outright ban.
“We have agreed that we want to make it a legal requirement to show your face in places where it is necessary for the cohesion of our society,” he said.
For example, women should be forced to show their face while driving, when they register with authorities, in schools, universities, in public office and in court, he said.
The Christian Democrats (CDU) proposals must be adopted by the government before they can become law. The debate over a ban on the face veil has divided Merkel’s ruling coalition, with her Social Democrat (SPD) junior coalition partners largely against the demands.
De Maiziere indicated that outlawing the burqa only under certain circumstances would “likely win approval” in parliament.
Merkel’s right-left “grand coalition” holds an overwhelming majority in the Bundestag lower house.
Germany is home to nearly four million Muslims, about five percent of the total population.
There are no official statistics on the number of women wearing a burqa – which covers the face and body – in Germany but Aiman Mazyek, leader of its Central Council of Muslims, has said hardly any women wear it.