MUNICH/BERLIN (Reuters) Bavaria will ban the full-face veil in schools, universities, government workplaces and polling stations, the southern German state said on Tuesday (Feb. 21).
The move comes seven months before a federal election where immigration will be a prominent issue and the Bavarian conservatives that govern the region, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's, are worried about losing votes to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).
"Communication happens not only via language but also via looks, facial expressions and gestures," Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said after the regional government agreed a draft law to ban the full-face veil for civil servants and in public places where there are concerns for public safety.
"It's the foundation of our interactions with each other and it's the basis of our free and democratic order," he said. "Concealing your face is at odds with this culture of communication."
In December, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a ban on full-face Muslim veils "wherever legally possible."
The moves come after more than a million, mainly Muslim, migrants arrived in Germany over the last two years and amid widespread security fears after several Islamist attacks last year.
France and Belgium have banned the burqa and the region of Lombardy in northern Italy has banned it in hospitals and public offices belonging to the regional government.
Herrmann said he expected Bavaria's regional parliament, in which the CSU has an absolute majority, to approve the law by the summer break.