After deciding to run for her fourth term as Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel has proclaimed the Islamic women’s face and body covering, the burqa, ‘should be banned, wherever it is legally possible’.
This strong stance comes as quite a shock to people who hailed her the new ‘leader of the free world’ not so long ago after Donald’s Trump’s election where she showed her disdain for his ‘divisive’ nature.
Merkel gave a not-so-subtle warning to Trump saying their two countries ‘are connected by values of democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views’ reports The Independent.
But now she’s making what seems to be a u-turn, after she welcomed nearly one million refugees into Germany last year, who were mostly Muslim, fleeing from their war-torn countries looking for protection.
Germany was held up as an example to many for how they were accommodating those in need, but it seems the sentiments of the German public changed, becoming more Islamophobic and less accepting of refugees.
As the German voters have moved to the right, is it really a surprise that Merkel, wanting another term in power, has changed her tune and is now cracking down?
Speaking at the conference of her centre-right Christian Democratic Union party, Merkel said:
The full veil is not appropriate here. It should be banned wherever it’s legally possible.
A situation like the one in the late summer of 2015 cannot, should not and must not be repeated. That was and is our, and my, declared political aim.
Merkel, like neighbouring France, suggests the ban is for security and protection of the country’s values, saying that Germans ‘show our face in interpersonal communication’.
While the point that face coverings of any sort create problems in terms of identification and therefore security is a true one, it’s just as obvious that Europe’s leaders are using this as a justification to echo anti-Islam sentiments.
If it was only for ‘national security’, the focus would not be on a religion, there would not be mention of Islamic values, or integration, the headlines might read ‘balaclava ban’, and you wouldn’t be able to wrap a scarf around too much of your face in winter.
As Merkel moved toward the left she opened a gap to her right, and her party’s main competitor – the rising nationalist Alternative for Germany Party – moved in swiftly in time for the federal election in autumn 2017.
Attacks in Cologne last New Year’s Eve are partially blamed for the anti-refugee outlook in Germany, after a reported 1,000 women were sexually assaulted at the city’s central train station by a group of men who appeared to be predominantly of Arab and North African descent.
The Alternative for Germany Party has grown explosively since it was founded in 2013. It calls for radical policies like banning mosque minarets and Islamic face coverings in Germany, and has made swift gains on a regional level, beating Merkel’s party in her home district.
The banning of such a specific type of dress begs the question of just how many people actually wear them. The Washington Post reports that 28 per cent of Muslim women and girls wore a headscarf in Germany, but it is important to note that would include more popular items of clothing such as the hijab and chador (pictured below), as well as the more rarely seen niqab and burqa.
There are 300 women in all of Germany wearing burqa, so it's not hard to see what Merkel's ban call is really about https://t.co/xLpl3FiBBM
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 6, 2016
The people of Twitter were quick to point out that Merkel’s move to the right appears to be for votes:
Angela Merkel just called for a burqa ban in Germany. Looks like she really wants that fourth term https://t.co/Opr8WMqheo
— Lizzie Dearden (@lizziedearden) December 6, 2016
Her suggestion was met by cheers from her fellow Christian Democratic Union party members.
Merkel making a pitch for the racist vote. https://t.co/xQbsvpXAf0
— Liam O'Hare (@Liam_O_Hare) December 6, 2016
Many people on Twitter are asking whether Germans will ‘fall for’ Merkel’s change in heart.
Now Merkel pretends she wants to ban the burka to take momentum from AfD. Really going to fall for this Germany? https://t.co/wuc6BGld5o
— Anne Marie Waters (@AMDWaters) December 7, 2016
Despite being advised otherwise, Merkel decided to run for a fourth term after 11 years as Chancellor.
— Pat Condell (@patcondell) December 6, 2016
By definition a ‘ban’ is a negative action. If Germany is really concerned about integration between Islam and German culture, why aren’t there any positive measures to boost inclusion?
Merkel describes her society as ‘open’, but does the policy of masking Islamophobia with national security threats reflect openness?
Of course security is a priority, but it is important to question whether a whole religion is being blamed for threatening security only because a small minority of it’s members wear a garment that covers their face, or if it runs deeper.
First it’s just the burqa, then it’s Muslim minarets, then it’s any Islamic dress, and before you know it, countries are banning Muslims…
Where does the cycle of justified bigotry end?