27th May 2017

Muslim full veil contradicts EU values, says German minister

It should be up to member states rather than the EU to set rules for wearing full face veils but the practice runs against European values, Wolfgang Schaeuble, the interior minister of the German EU presidency, has said.

Speaking to journalists after a meeting in the European Parliament's civil liberties committee, Mr Schaeuble argued that communication is viewed as one of the responsibilities of European citizens and the full veils as worn by some Muslim women prevent this.

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"The full veil runs contrary to the achievements of the European civilization," he said, adding "You cannot communicate with the person wearing it...Our communication is also to a great extent non-verbal."

He pointed out that his views on veils were personal rather than an official position of the presidency or German government.

The minister stressed that it would be an "incorrect understanding of tolerance if we were not brave enough to express ourselves on that" however.

The issue of whether or not a full face veil should be allowed has recently been a subject of hot debate across Europe.

In the UK, ex-foreign minister Jack Straw sparked furious reaction late last year when he made similar suggestions to those of Mr Schaeuble - that the full veil makes it hard for Muslim women to discharge community tasks.

There is no ban on Islamic dress in the UK, but some German states do not allow teachers or civil servants to wear headscarves at work. Similar locally-applied bans on some types of Muslim clothes have been introduced in Italy and Belgium.

Religious symbols in schools are officially forbidden in France and EU candidate country Turkey, with the Dutch government recently also having adopted a proposal to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public places.

European imams need training

Mr Schaeuble on Wednesday also repeated his call for Europe to train its Imams so as to help integrate the continent's Muslim population, calm tensions and fight "home-grown terrorism".

In his earlier statement in Berlin, the German minister suggested that the crucial element within the intercultural dialogue that his country's EU presidency seeks to promote should be prevention of emerging parallel societies.

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