German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking at a Christian Democratic Union party conference in Essen, called for a ban on wearing Muslim burqas in public as she opened her election campaign for a fourth term as chancellor. Photo by Kay Nietfeld/Europeanm Pressphoto Agency
ESSEN , Germany, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called for a ban on use of the burqa, commonly used by Muslim women to fully veil their faces.
She addressed her stance on the topic at the start of a meeting of her Christian Democratic Party, or CDU, in Essen.
"For us that means: Show your face," she said. "Therefore the full-body veil is not appropriate, it should be banned wherever it's legally possible."
The comment, meant to present a tough image on conservative Islam despite her welcome of more than 1 million mostly Muslim immigrants to Germany in 2015, was greeted with approval and applause.
Her call for a burqa ban, which is worn in public in Germany by very few women, could be seen as a pragmatic shift to the right for Merkel. With the election in the United States of Donald Trump and Britain's vote to exit the European Union, Merkel is regarded by many as the only remaining symbol of liberal democracy in the industrialized world, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
She used her strongest language yet to back a ban on Islamic coverings suggested by her party's conservative members. Some have called for legislation making it an offense to wear burqas in courtrooms, government buildings, and while driving or attending demonstrations.
In the past Merkel has been critical of Islamic veils as an obstacle to assimilation in Germany, but her comments seemed designed to appease those who say her welcome of asylum seekers has been reckless and damaging to Germany. Immigration to Germany was scaled back in 2016, and Tuesday she reinforced the policy, saying, "A situation like the one in the late summer of 2015 cannot, should not and must not be repeated."
Merkel was renominated by the party, receiving 89.5 percent of the votes from approximately 1,000 delegates present. It was the ninth time that Merkel was elected party leader; she has led the CDU for nearly 17 years.