BERLIN — Europe’s battle over public attire for Muslim women moved on Friday from the outcry over banning “burkinis” in France to a strong call from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing conservative bloc for a ban in Germany on face veils in schools and universities and while driving.
The German proposal, announced by Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, was driven by an intensifying political season and a surge in support for the far right since Germany accepted more than 1 million refugees last year. There has been mounting public anxiety over integrating the refugees, who are mostly from Muslim countries, particularly after a series of terrorist assaults last month.
The German plan arrives on the heels of a heated debate in France over the burkini — a full-body swimsuit with a head covering — since a handful of cities joined the mayor of the French Riviera town of Cannes in banning the garment from city beaches. Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France supported the move, calling the swimsuit a sign of the enslavement of women.
Merkel had sent a signal about the partial ban on face veils Thursday when she told a group of provincial newspapers that “from my standpoint, a fully veiled woman scarcely has a chance at full integration in Germany.”
De Maizière said the same day that “the burqa doesn’t fit with our country and does not correspond to our understanding of the role of women.”
De Maizière and Merkel stopped short of calling for an outright ban on the burqa, but the proposal put forward Friday tiptoes along a path the French traveled down with a 2010 law that barred any covering that hides the face.
The German plan would ban full face veils in schools and colleges, and while driving, appearing before courts or at public registry offices, or when going through passport control.