Lower Saxony mulls burka ban for officials
Lower Saxony is set to follow the state of Hesse in banning the wearing of burkas – the Muslim dress that covers a woman’s face – by public sector workers, possibly creating a wave of regulations across the country.
After Hesse announced earlier this week it was banning burkas in the public service in response to a demand by a 39-year-old woman in a Frankfurt local administrative office to wear the face veil, the Lower Saxony government said it was examining a similar move.
“The burka has no place in the public service,” the state’s conservative Christian Democratic Interior Minister, Uwe Schünemann, told the Hannover daily Neue Presse.
“Lower Saxony is looking at the moment at some legal regulations both for employees and officials.”
He said federal parliamentarians were sitting on the fence on the issue.
Lower Saxony’s Integration and Social Affairs Minister Aygül Özkan, herself a Muslim, supports the ban.
“To wear a burka in an administrative office goes beyond the principle of tolerance,” she told the same paper. “Citizens must be able to have the right that a public servant shows their face.”
There was no indication from the Lower Saxony government that any employee in the state was planning to wear a burka.
On Wednesday, Hesse became the first German state to expressly ban the wearing of the full Muslim veil in public service jobs. The state’s Interior Minister Boris Rhein said public workers were obliged to be politically and religiously neutral. Veiled women conveyed the image that was not consistent with liberal and cosmopolitan values.
It was acting in response to a casual employee of a Frankfurt Bürgeramt who had announced she intended to return to work from parenting leave wearing a full face veil.
In a sign that other states may act, Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann welcomed the Hesse ban.