Officials in Germany’s ruling coalition have proposed a partial ban on face veils, according to CNN. The ban would apply to public places where identification is required. In Germany, this includes schools and kindergartens, as well as government and registry offices.
European bans on the Muslim face veil, or niqab, aren’t new. In fact, a 2014 BBC roundup of European attitudes toward this form of Muslim dress, as well as burkas and hijabs, is a reminder that France and Belgium have banned the full-face veil since 2011, while some restrictions on the garb and/or local bans exist in a number of other countries.
Those in favor of the ban say that full-face veils don’t fit in with German society, and that the ban would promote security and national cohesion.
At a press conference held by the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union — which govern in a partnership — Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, “Full-face veils, as mentioned, we reject this. Not just the burka, any full-face veils that only shows eyes of a person.”
Interior Minister of Berlin Frank Henkel showed support for the proposal, adding that the full-face veil “does not fit in with our understanding of a tolerant, free society. It does not fit in with our view of women.”
While Henkel’s words echo the many people who view the niqab as oppressive, it also seems as though the opinions of women who actually wear the niqab (or other “restrictive” religious clothing, for that matter) aren’t being considered. Those who do wear it and share their own opinion, like Sahar Al Faifi in her piece for Independent, consistently say that wearing such clothing is a matter of personal choice, and it doesn’t interfere with their ability to be powerful and vocal members of a wider community.
“It does not fit into our society for us, for our communication, for our cohesion in the society…. This is why we demand you show your face,” continued de Maiziere during the proposal’s introduction.
Despite the insistence that the intentions behind the proposal are good, there is a clear dissonance between promoting a “tolerant, free society,” as Henkel says, and de Maiziere’s demands that women show their faces. Hopefully, the ban doesn’t end up in place — but as Faifi suggests in her piece: