German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere came out Friday in favor of a partial burqa ban amid a fierce national debate on integration.
“We agree that we reject the burqa, we agree that we want to introduce a legal requirement to show one’s face in places where it is necessary for our society’s coexistence — at the wheel, at public offices, at the registry office, in schools and universities, in the civil service, in court,” he said after a meeting with regional counterparts from his conservative party.
De Maiziere told public television that the full face veil “does not belong in our cosmopolitan country”.
“We want to show our faces to each other and that is why we agree that we reject this — the question is how we put this into law,” he said.
De Maiziere indicated that outlawing the burqa only under certain circumstances — as opposed the blanket ban favored by the hard right of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Union bloc — would be “likely to win approval” in parliament.
Merkel’s right-left “grand coalition” holds an overwhelming majority in the Bundestag lower house.
De Maiziere’s position represents a compromise with hardliners ahead of two key state elections next month in which the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party looks set to make strong gains.
Just last week he had rejected a call from conservative state interior ministers for a burqa ban, saying: “We can’t ban everything that we reject, and I reject the wearing of the burqa.”
He made the comments on August 11 as he unveiled tough new anti-terror measures after two attacks in Germany last month claimed by the Islamic State group.
The measures included a controversial proposal to strip jihadist fighters of their German nationality.
The security package also calls for deportations of convicted criminal migrants to be sped up and police resources to be boosted.
The AfD in particular has attempted to link the record influx of migrants and refugees, many from the Middle East, to Germany last year with an increased threat of terrorism — an argument Merkel sharply rejected this week on the campaign trail in her home district.