Merkel calls for partial burqa ban in Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel endorses partial burqa ban: 'Our law takes precedence over codes of honours and sharia is important to show face when people communicate' 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has for the first time endorsed her party’s call for a partial ban on the burqa and the niqab, calling for them to be prohibited “wherever it is legally possible”.

Germany is this week expected to pass a motion proposing a ban on the full face veil in courts, schools, universities and other state buildings, as well as in road traffic and during police checks. A full ban on the veil, as introduced by France in 2011, is seen as incompatible with Germany’s constitution.

Merkel’s comments represent a change in rhetoric: in September, she called for stricter guidelines on official situations where wearing a full face veil was not permissible, while also stating that “lived diversity is the logical consequence of freedom”.

Merkel focused on law-and-order issues, in what was her first address to her CDU party since announcing she would seek a fourth term as chancellor next year.

“Our law takes precedence over codes of honours, tribal or family rules, and over sharia law – that has to be spelled out clearly,” she said. “This also means that it is important to show face when people communicate.”

After her speech, 89.5% of the CDU delegates re-elected Merkel as their party leader – the lowest endorsement of her tenure as chancellor. As in previous years, her leadership candidacy was unopposed.

Merkel’s decision to keep borders open to thousands of refugees stranded in Hungary last September had led to a backlash. However, in her speech on Tuesday, she warned that “a situation like the one of summer 2015 cannot, must not and will not be repeated”.

“That’s what we have been working towards for many many months – for the good of those here in Germany, and for the good of the refugees, so that they don’t fall victim to ruthless people-smugglers.”

She defended her decision to offer refuge in Germany to people fleeing war in Syria, but warned that several asylum seekers would have to leave again in the future and vowed to speed up deportations of failed asylum seekers.

She condemned Russia and Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the failure to stop bombings on Aleppo.

“It’s a disgrace that we haven’t been able to set up aid corridors. We have to keep on fighting for that.”

Merkel also expressed frustration at the lack of public outrage at the humanitarian situation in Syria, saying: “To be honest, if a free-trade agreement with the United States of America can bring hundreds of thousands out on to the streets, but the barbarous bombardments of Aleppo don’t trigger any public protests, then something is wrong with our political standards.”

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