German minister to propose ban on full face veils in public

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SHAFAQNA – Germany’s interior minister will propose a number of security measures, including a ban on the full face veil for women, in reaction to growing concerns about violent attacks in the country.

According to German media, the measures, which the interior ministry will try to turn into law before national elections in 2017, include boosting police numbers and video surveillance at railway stations and airports, making it easier for doctors to break confidentiality agreements if their patients are planning criminal acts, and tightening rules around obtaining dual nationality.

The federal interior minister, the Christian Democrat (CDU) MP Thomas de Maizière, is expected to present details of a number of initiatives on Thursday, with the official presentation of the so-called Berlin declaration to follow at a conference of German state interior ministers on 18 August.

Earlier this month, southern Germany saw a spate of violent attacks, three of which involved asylum seekers and two of which were later claimed by ISIS.

A ban on full face veils worn by some Muslim women, similar to the “ban on face covering” passed in France, was recently proposed by Jens Spahn, one of the up-and-coming figures on the right wing of Angela Merkel’s party.

“A ban on the full veil, ie the niqab and the burqa, is overdue and would be a signal to the world,” the CDU politician told Die Welt newspaper at the end of July. “I don’t want to encounter a burqa in this country. In that sense I am burqaphobic.”

His position has been supported by the CDU candidate for the forthcoming Berlin state elections, Frank Henkel, who told the local Tagesspiegel newspaper: “I consider a ban on the burqa absolutely desirable.”

The ban on the full veil as well as the revoking of laws around dual nationality are likely to prove highly controversial and could run into legal difficulty.

Gökay Sofuoglu, the national chair of the Turkish community in Germany, described the proposal as populist. “How would one go about putting that into practice? Burqas are at the most worn by tourists from Saudi-Arabia,” Sofuoglu told the Mannheimer Morgen newspaper.

Germany has been on high alert since July, when a spate of attacks killed 15 people, including four attackers, and left dozens injured.

On July 24, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee killed himself and injured 15 people outside a café in the city of Ansbach in Bavaria in southern Germany. The Daesh terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the Syrian man was a recruit.

On July 18, a teenage refugee, who was registered as an Afghan asylum seeker but was believed to be a Pakistani national, injured four people using an ax and a knife on a train in Bavaria. Daesh also claimed responsibility for that attack.

In the same month, a teenager opened fire at people shopping at a mall in the city of Munich in southern Germany, killing nine and injuring more than 35 others. Officials ruled out that the case was a terrorism issue, however.

The ban on the full face hijab to be introduced by de Maiziere, the German interior minister, may exacerbate Islamophobic tendencies in Germany, where far-right extremist groups are already campaigning, sometimes violently, against Muslims and refugees.

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