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Germany's Merkel Calls for Ban on Full-Face Covers

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Germany German Chancellor and Chairwomen of the CDU, Angela Merkel, speaks during a party conference of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Essen, Germany, Dec. 6, 2016.
Germany German Chancellor and Chairwomen of the CDU, Angela Merkel, speaks during a party conference of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Essen, Germany, Dec. 6, 2016.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a ban on full-face veils worn by some Muslim women.

Merkel announced her position Tuesday at a conference of her Christian Democrat Union (CDU) in the central German city of Essen. Her comments were part of a speech she gave before her reelection as party leader.

“In communication between people, which is of course essential to our living together, we have to show our faces,” Merkel said.

She said veils that fully cover the face should be banned “wherever legally possible.” Merkel’s CDU party has previously discussed banning them in schools, courts and other public buildings.

A small minority of Muslim women in Germany wear full-face veils.

In the past, Merkel has said she believes Muslims who completely cover their faces have little chance of fully mixing into German society.

Legal experts said it is unclear whether a veil ban would violate Germany’s constitution.

Three European nations - France, Belgium and the Netherlands – already have bans on the face-covering veils.

A woman gives a flower to a migrant at the fence of a refugee home in Cologne, Germany, Jan. 22, 2016.
A woman gives a flower to a migrant at the fence of a refugee home in Cologne, Germany, Jan. 22, 2016.

Merkel recently announced she would seek a fourth term as chancellor in elections expected to be held in fall 2017. Her popularity has dropped since Germany decided to accept about one million refugees.

German public opinion studies show Merkel’s CDU party is currently leading among voters. But even if the CDU wins, the Chancellor would likely have to form a coalition government with competing parties.

Germany Election: AfD member Alexander Gauland, left, and Leif-Erik Holm, center, top candidate of the AfD, celebrate at the gathering of the AfD (Alternative for Germany) party in Schwerin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016 after the state elections in the
Germany Election: AfD member Alexander Gauland, left, and Leif-Erik Holm, center, top candidate of the AfD, celebrate at the gathering of the AfD (Alternative for Germany) party in Schwerin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016 after the state elections in the

“The 2017 election will be more difficult than any election before, at least since German reunification,” Merkel said.

Merkel also faces strong opposition from the anti-immigration Alternative for Deutschland (AFD) party. The AFD has been critical of Muslim migrants entering Germany. The group recently said Islam is not compatible with Germany’s constitution.

I’m Anne Ball.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English with reporting from the Associated Press and Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.

We want to hear from you. What do you think about governments banning face covers? Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

veil n. thin piece of material that covers the face

essential adj. extremely important or necessary

compatibleadj. able to exist or be used together

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