Friday

24th May 2019

Top German Liberal in EU parliament wants Europe-wide burqa ban

  • Burqa-clad women stand out strongly in Europe (Photo: miss_ohara)

First the Belgian lower chamber votes to ban the burqa; soon France intends to follow suit; now the leading German Liberal in the European Parliament and a vice-president of the assembly has called for a Europe-wide ban on the face-concealing garment.

Silvana Koch-Mehrin, the 40-year-old head of the Free Democrats in Strasbourg, in an opinion piece at the weekend for German tabloid Bild am Sonntag said: "I would like to see the wearing of all forms of the burqa banned in Germany and in all of Europe."

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Ms Koch-Mehrin is one of 14 vice-presidents of the parliament and sits on the bureau, the highest administrative body in the chamber.

Declaring that she welcomes the Belgian parliament's decision "quite explicitly," she went on: "The burqa is an enormous attack on the rights of women. It is a mobile prison."

She added that the full veil represents an embrace of "values we in Europe do not share."

"And I admit it: When I meet people on the streets fully veiled, I'm disturbed. I can not judge what their intentions towards me are."

"I'm not afraid, but I am unsure."

The German Free Democrats are economic liberals with a strong belief in personal freedoms.

However, according to Ms Koch-Mehrin, there are limits to this freedom and the EU should decide on behalf of Muslim women the limits of what clothing they can wear.

"Freedom can not go so far as to take away the public faces of humans. At least not in Europe," she said.

Civil liberties groups and human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have strongly condemned the Belgian ban, arguing that it is a form of symbolic attack on the Muslim community in Europe as a whole.

In Belgium, only an estimated several dozen out of the country's 375,000 Muslims wear the burqa.

Ms Koch-Mehrin's remarks come ahead of important regional elections in Germany on 9 May.

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