Germany Enters Europe's Burka Debate

Coastal towns in France have banned the so-called “burkini."

ByABC News
August 19, 2016, 2:18 PM

— LONDON -- Germany’s interior minister is one of the latest European politicians to get involved in the debate about the burka, a garment worn by a tiny minority of Muslim women in Europe.

Thomas de Maiziere, Germany’s federal interior minister, has proposed a partial ban of the burka and niqab in the country. His proposal follows a series of recent terrorist attacks targeting the country, two of which have been claimed by the Islamic State.

"We're against people wearing the full veil in Germany - it has no place in our country and it doesn't comply with our understanding of the role of women," de Maiziere told journalists yesterday before discussing security issues in the wake of the recent attacks, according to Reuters.

Since 2012, Germany has also been the primary destination for asylum seekers in Europe, receiving 442,000 asylum applications in 2015 alone, according to a Pew Research Center report published earlier this month. Many of the country’s refugees are Muslim and come from Syria.

Today, interior ministers from Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats party and the Christian Social Union party agreed that women should be banned from wearing the face veil in schools and universities and while driving.

Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, known as the ZMD in Germany, said that the current debate over the burka is a distraction from the real problems that Germany is facing.

"For 10 years, the ZMD has called for a headscarf-culture with uncovered faces in schools and public institutions, but the current burka debate is a distraction from the real problems in our country and, moreover, incompatible with the constitution," the ZMD said in a statement.

The German proposal comes as Cannes and other coastal towns in France have banned the so-called “burkini” – a swimsuit that resembles the burka and is worn by a small number of Muslim women on French beaches. The ban was supported by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who said that the swimsuits are not compatible with French values and are based on the "enslavement of women."

Other French politicians disagreed. In a column for the Huffington Post, Nathalie Goulet, a member of the French Senate, wrote that part of French society is blaming “foreigners, or the Muslims, for all their problems.”

“Islam has become a tool to gain applause at meetings and likes on social media,” she wrote. “To have a rational discussion about Islam in today’s world seems impossible. People don’t want to hear it. The burkini debate is the latest piece of evidence; public debate is reduced to a rudimentary level, and shortcuts and generalizations work to spread confusion and stir hate.”

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