FaithWorld

Conservative German state bans burqas for civil servants

February 2, 2011
niqab

A French Muslim wearing a niqab veil in Nantes, April 23, 2010/Stephane Mahe

Hesse, a state run by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, on Wednesday became the first German region to ban Muslim face veils for public sector workers.

Hesse Interior Minister Boris Rhein announced it was “not acceptable” for the teacher in Frankfurt to wear a face veil because “public sector workers are obligated to have neutral religious and political views”.

The decision was prompted by a local teacher who had told her school she wanted to wear a burqa in the classroom after returning from maternity leave. She had not previously worn one.

Debates about outlawing burqas have spread across Europe after France banned the Muslim face veils.

Only a small minority of Muslim women in Europe cover their faces, but their veils have become symbols for Europeans troubled by problems such as the economic crisis, immigration and Muslim integration.

A poll last year showed 61 percent of Germans favoured a burqa ban. Ban supporters include a Catholic bishop in Bavaria, and also the country’s most prominent feminist, Alice Schwarzer. But Germany’s interior and justice ministers have opposed a ban.

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