• Germany's news in English
 
Op-Ed
Should Germany ban the burqa?
Photo: DPA

Should Germany ban the burqa?

Published: 15 Jul 2014 11:35 GMT+02:00

Opponents of such a ban here say it would heavily infringe on personal, cultural and religious freedoms and only serve to inflame tensions.

Advocates insist the burqa has no place in progressive, pluralistic German society.

In Frankfurt am Main, a city of 700,000 residents, including a large Muslim population, the issue has split Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU Party and the Greens within the ruling coalition.

Currently, staff in the municipal administration are not allowed to wear veils at work, and there are calls for this to be extended into public life. 

The Local talked to the heads of both local party branches about the implications of a potential ban in Germany, which has around four million Muslims, only a small number of whom wear veils in public.

'Yes to a ban'

"My main objection to the burqa is that it is the strongest signal of dissociation from an open and free society," CDU head Uwe Becker tells The Local.

"We live in a city which is rich in colour and diversity and has 170 nationalities represented. Muslims, Christians, Jews and all manner of other religions peacefully coexist, and it is characteristic of Frankfurt that it all happens in an atmosphere of great openness and freedom.

“But the burqa sends a strong signal that a person does not wish to integrate in the rest of society or wants to dissociate themselves from it.

“For me this issue is not about any restriction of culture or religion, but rather about the risk of disrupting co-existence in such a multi-cultural city as ours.

“Another aspect is how wearing a burqa impacts on public order and the establishment of a person's specific identity.

“In Germany we also had a discussion and subsequent ban [in 1985] on concealing one's face at demonstrations.

“We want to know who is behind the veil and with whose individual actions we are dealing with.”

Do you advocate fines for wearing a burqa in public, which in France is set at €150?

“Whether and to what extent this would be backed up with fines is not the focus for me.

“This is more about making it clear that the lasting, peaceful coexistence of so many cultures and religions is possible precisely because people acknowledge the open society we have in Europe and in Germany - and don't segregate themselves from it.

“Judging from the responses I have received in Facebook and via newspapers, some 90 percent of people here agree.

“But our coalition partners say that a ban is excessive and that we should avert this self-segregation through persuasion instead.”

'No to a ban'

But Martina Feldmayer, co-chairperson of Frankfurt's Green Party takes a different view, as she tells The Local.

Your coalition colleague Uwe Becker says, "We want to know who is behind the veil." Do you think a person or group has the right to insist on this?

“Yes, they have that right, just as others have the right to see the matter differently. There is a big spread of opinion.

“The question here is what do we want to achieve? A better level of integration and more openness within a pluralistic society?

“You don’t achieve this through imposing bans, because then the hole just gets deeper. We prefer to persuade rather than prohibit.

“In reality, [full veiling of women] is not a mass phenomenon here anyway, and I am concerned that a debate has been set in motion that will only result in stronger polarization.”

How do you regard the position expressed in a similar discussion in Canada by Muslim Canadian Congress spokeswoman Farzana Hassan: "If a government claims to uphold equality between men and women, there is no reason for them to support a practice that marginalizes women."?

“A government should always observe gender equality. But this is not a question of supporting a practice but rather whether something should be banned. And everyone should give careful consideration to the consequences.

“Rather than helping, I think a burqa ban will have the opposite effect and result in some women not being allowed out in public at all.

“My co-chairperson of the Greens in Frankfurt, Omid Nouripour [a Muslim German of Iranian origin], is also against banning the burqa.

“Through Frankfurt’s integration policy and the work of its council for religion affairs we have made great progress through dialogue towards common values. And we came further this way than by discussing bans.”

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Shoot-out near Ku'damm leaves bystander injured
Photo: DPA

Shoot-out near Ku'damm leaves bystander injured

A shoot-out near Germany's most iconic shopping street, the Kurfürstendamm in west Berlin, left an apparently innocent bystander injured after she was shot in the leg on Wednesday evening. READ  

Refugees live in fear of German far-right
A Pegida demonstration in Dresden in May. Photo: DPA

Refugees live in fear of German far-right

It's an astonishing statement for a refugee from war-torn Syria, but Taher has had enough of the xenophobia he has experienced in Germany. READ  

Germany heightens travel warning for Turkey
A view of Istanbul. Photo: DPA.

Germany heightens travel warning for Turkey

The German government has issued more severe warnings about travelling to Turkey after a string of terror attacks in the south of the country, and as Ankara intensifies conflict against two militias in Syria and Iraq. READ  

Fireman turned arsonist jailed for 3 years
Fire services extinguish an unrelated fire in Hamburg in 2011. Photo: DPA

Fireman turned arsonist jailed for 3 years

After a series of arson attacks over several months, an ex-fireman has been sentenced to three years in jail without chance of bail. READ  

Mother slams IKEA for rejecting autistic son
Photo: DPA

Mother slams IKEA for rejecting autistic son

A mother from North Rhine-Westphalia has accused furniture chain IKEA of debasement, discrimination and marginalization – after employees in their Dortmund store refused to let her autistic son into the children's play area. READ  

Wallaby goes walkabout in Berlin outback
Photo: Gemeinde Nuthe-Urstromtal

Wallaby goes walkabout in Berlin outback

A woman in a village south of Berlin was shocked to find a rather unusual visitor in her garden on Tuesday. But by the time police got there he'd already bounced. READ  

Munich upholds ban on Jewish 'memory blocks'
A pedestrian walks by a group of Stolpersteine. Photo: DPA

Munich upholds ban on Jewish 'memory blocks'

The Munich City Council said on Wednesday that it had voted to continue banning the placement of blocks commemorating Jewish Holocaust victims in city streets - a ban that garnered surprising support from Jewish community leaders. READ  

13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Batlle in Syria. Photo: DPA

13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis

A young teen from Munich was detained near the Turkish border with Syria on Friday as he was trying to join the radical Islamist group Isis. READ  

The Local List
Six odd ways Germans talk about the weather
Photo: DPA

Six odd ways Germans talk about the weather

Is it absolutely roasting, or raining cats and dogs? Neither if you live in Germany. Here are six wonderfully weird expressions Germans use to talk about the weather - some more literal than others. READ  

Little by little, Germans move away from cash
Photo: DPA

Little by little, Germans move away from cash

Tourists and business travellers visiting Germany are often surprised when they reach to pay for their beer, metro tickets or even a large restaurant bill that their credit cards are not welcome. Habits, however, are slowly changing as younger consumers leapfrog from cash to convenient electronic forms of payment. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Society
In North Germany, money sometimes DOES grow on trees
National
Hero mechanics stop Bavaria shooting spree
International
Denmark says that border controls are coming
National
Did hackers take control of German missile battery?
Politics
Munich gives gay pride green light
Business & Money
Berlin rent controls hit prices hard
National
Fighting to breastfeed in public without shame
Society
Ice cream for dogs 'gobbled up in one gulp'
Education
Are hotpants a feminist issue?
Rhineland
Lion cub reunited with mother
National
How the heatwave is cracking Germany's Autobahns
International
Why the French are more sympathetic to Greece than the Germans
Sponsored Article
Crans-Montana: International expat hub
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,175
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd