The Green Party in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany has blocked attempts to ban wearing full face covers at local universities following almost a year of discussions. The political party’s spokesman, Lasse Petersdotter, stated to the outlet Die Welt that their group in the state legislature had voted unanimously against a corresponding amendment to the law. The party cited religious freedom, which is enshrined in the country’s constitution. The state’s party leader, biologist Ann-Kathrin Tranziska, noted that a cosmopolitan society based on the rule of law is characterised by the fact that religious symbols can be freely displayed.
The proposed ban became an apple of discord for the so-called Jamaica coalition in the state’s parliament, which also includes Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). These two parties want to see a burka and niqab ban included in the university law.
The debate around changing the regulations for universities goes back to the case of a Muslim student at Kiel's Christian Albrechts University, considered to be one of the oldest and most famous in Germany. It forbade the student to wear a full face veil in classes. Nevertheless, the student always went with her face covered to the university. Therefore, the university asked the state to create a regulation that would make it possible to issue and enforce an official ban on such religious attire.
At least 16 countries, both European and Asian, have imposed laws prohibiting face coverings in public settings, including Germany’s neighbour, the Netherlands. The corresponding law that rules out wearing face-covering garments in government buildings, public transport, and other state institutions entered into force there last year.