German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called for a burqa ban in Germany, “wherever legally possible” according to the country’s law, The Independent reported. Addressing a congress of her conservative Christian Democratic Union party in the city of Essen, Merkel said the “full-face veil is not acceptable in our country”. She was re-elected leader of the party.
“In communication between people, which is of course essential to our living together, we have to show our faces,” she told CDU delegates, according to TIME. German Interior Minister and Merkel ally Thomas de Maziere had proposed a partial ban of the burqa in August. Maziere had said the ban, if implemented, would apply in places “where it is necessary for our society’s co-existence”, including in government offices, schools and universities.
Merkel, who will seek a fourth term in office in 2017, has received heavy criticism for her immigration policies by the populist right-wing Alternative fur Deutschland party. The party has proposed limitations on public shows of Islamic faith, including a ban on minarets. The AfD has also called Islam “not compatible” with the German constitution.
Merkel was declared TIME’s Person of the Year 2015 as her country alone took in more than one million asylum seekers, fleeing from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. She had also called anti-refugee protestors who shouted abuse at a bus full of refugees “repulsive”, adding that there had been a “polarisation” of public opinion in the country because of the issue.
The burqa has also become a political issue in other major European countries. In August, the highest administrative court in France temporarily suspended a ban on burkinis, saying it “seriously, and clearly illegally” breached several fundamental freedoms, including “the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom”. The issue has also prompted a debate on secularism, with some accusing politicians of using the issue for electoral gains.