German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw support behind a partial ban on burkas and niqabs in Germany on Tuesday, drawing applause from the audience.
“The full-face veil is not acceptable in our country,” she told crowds at a conference of her Christian Democratic Union party in Essen, Germany. “It should be banned, wherever it is legally possible. Our law takes precedence over codes of honor, tribal or family rules, and over sharia law – that has to be spelled out clearly. This also means that it is important to show face when people communicate.”
On Tuesday, Merkel won reelection as chairwoman of the CDU party, a position she has held since 2000. She is gearing up to run for a fourth term as chancellor in 2017.
“This is a real new step,” Jens Spahn, Germany’s deputy finance minister, told Bloomberg.
German interior minister Thomas de Maizière hinted that the ban was coming in August.
The full-face veil “doesn’t fit in with our open society,” he told reporters. “To show one’s face is crucial for communicating, for living together in our society and keeping it together. In the areas where it serves a function to show one’s face, we want to make it a rule . . . and this means whoever breaks it must feel the consequences.”
Germany’s Muslim population has increased in recent years, especially after 2015 when more than 1 million migrants and refugees arrived.
Britain’s U.K. Independence Party leader and Brexit engineer Nigel Farage, who does not mince words in his anti-immigration platform, weighed in on Twitter shortly after the news broke:
Merkel also told the audience that a migrant crisis of the scale that Germany experienced last year “must not be repeated.”
Germany wants to continue assisting refugees fleeing war and persecution, Spahn noted, but cannot continue to provide for all migrants.