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Germans want a burqa ban

Carla BleikerAugust 26, 2016

A new poll has indicated that more than three quarters of Germans don't want to see a full body veil in public places. The issue is currently the subject of heated debate across the country - and the rest of Europe.

Three women in burqas. (Photo: EPA/ARSHAD ARBAB)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Arshad Arbab

A large majority of Germans reject the burqa. Some 81 percent of respondents in a representative survey conducted by polling institute Infratest dimap are in favor of banning the Islamic veil, which covers women completely from head to toe, in some public places.

More than half of Germans have an even more extreme view - 51 percent were in favor of banning the burqa entirely. Infratest dimap polled 1,008 German adults for public broadcaster ARD on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Roughly one-third of them (30 percent) support a partial ban of the veil for state employees and in school. Just 15 percent opposed any sort of burqa ban altogether.

The new poll also revealed what Germans see as priorities their politicians should tackle. Twenty-five percent of respondents said the most pressing topic was domestic security and the fight against terrorism, just 12 percent view migrant integration as a priority. Germany has been rocked by several small-scale terrorist attacks this summer.

Security expert Peter Neumann does not believe that banning the burqa would help make Germany safer.

"That's merely a feigned solution," Neumann, a professor of security studies at King's College London and director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, told news agency DPA. "I don't know of a single case in which a burqa ban stopped a terrorist attack or hindered someone's descent into terrorism."

Burqa not a part of an open Islam

Amid the renewed debate in Germany, some conservative politicians in the country are calling for a "burqa ban." State interior ministers of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) want to ban veils like the burqa and the niqab in public places including schools, public authorities, court rooms and in traffic. In France, a law like this has been in effect since April 2011. The ministers also discussed prohibiting the veils altogether, but that idea was rejected by federal German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (CDU).

"I think we should ban wearing a fully concealing veil in public by law," CDU politician Clemens Binninger told the weekly "Frankfurter Allgemeine Woche" newspaper. "Such a law would have great societal support and thus stands a good chance of garnering a political majority as well."

Several Islamic scholars in Germany agree. They say the burqa and the niqab are not required in their religion and believe that the extreme veils hinder integration. Aziz Fooladvand, a Bonn sociologist and Islamic Studies scholar, told DW that facial coverings are common only in very strict interpretations of Sunni Islam, such as that practiced in Saudi Arabia. But in Egypt, for example, wearing a niqab is generally frowned upon.

Bassam Tibi. (Photo: DW/M. von Hein)
Tibi: Burqa ban isn't contrary to respecting an open, democratic IslamImage: DW/M. von Hein

Bassam Tibi, a former professor of international relations at the University of Göttingen, calls himself a "European Muslim" and says that he supports an open, liberal Islam. In an August op-ed for popular German tabloid "Bild," he wrote that he fully supported a burqa ban:

"A burqa ban would be a smart political measure against certain people sealing themselves off in parallel societies, for an integration that includes Muslim migrants and for the safety of the Federal Republic of Germany."

Women's decisions should be respected

While less than one-fifth of respondents in the Infratest dimap poll opposed the ban, there are voices speaking up against prohibiting veils like burqa or niqab in any way. Gabriele Boos-Niazy, chairwoman of the German Alliance of Muslim Women, believes that an adult woman should be allowed to make her own decisions - including what to wear.

When a German court this week prohibited a Muslim woman from wearing her niqab to night school classes, Boos-Niazy called the decision "patronizing and inappropriate."

Gabriele Boos-Niazy. (Photo: private)
Boos-Niazy: adults should be able to make their own decisionsImage: privat

Muslim-German blogger Hatice Kahraman writes that she doesn't know a single Muslim woman in Germany who wears the burqa and wonders why a debate is raging on "something that doesn't exist."

"In Germany, we haven't really understood the concept of being open toward other cultures yet," Kahraman writes. "If we're being honest, the debate surrounding the burqa is nothing but unnecessary fear mongering and provides another platform for racism."