• Push by German state officials precedes regional elections
  • Burqa isn’t ‘cosmopolitan,’ says Merkel’s interior minister

State officials from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party bloc backed a partial ban on face veils worn by some Muslim women, which one of her cabinet members said is incompatible with German culture.

The initiative would ban the burqa for government employees, drivers behind the wheel and in public offices, schools and universities, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a ZDF television interview on Friday. Approval by Merkel’s Social Democratic coalition partner would be needed to move toward legislation on the proposal floated by state interior ministers of Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led bloc.

Last year’s record refugee influx and two Islamic State-linked attacks in Bavaria in July have renewed the debate about integrating Muslim asylum seekers into German society. Mainstream parties are losing voters to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party ahead of elections in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Sept. 4, and two thirds of Germans opposed Merkel’s handling of the refugee crisis in an Infratest Dimap poll this month.

“We unanimously reject the burqa,” de Maiziere said. “It doesn’t fit into our cosmopolitan country or with the idea of showing your face when you interact with others.”

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