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German Culture War
Leader of the “Free World” Calls for Burqa Ban

Germany’s Angela Merkel secured her re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union at the party convention yesterday, setting the stage for another run for chancellor next year. But that predictable outcome has been overshadowed by Merkel’s more surprising support for a burqa ban in Germany. TIME reports:

Angela Merkel called for a ban on the burqa, a full-face veil worn mainly by Muslim women, in order to prevent “any parallel societies developing” as her party re-elected her leader to seek a fourth term as German Chancellor.

“In communication between people, which is of course essential to our living together, we have to show our faces,” she told delegates at the annual Christian Democrats (CDU) party conference in the northwestern city of Essen. “So the full veil should be forbidden wherever legally possible.”

Merkel’s announcement was greeted by spontaneous applause at the convention, but the international backlash from liberals has been swift. For those disillusioned with Donald Trump’s election and a series of populist victories across Europe, Merkel has lately been seen as the “liberal West’s last defender,” a solitary champion of liberal values against a rising tide of populism and intolerance. Few have embodied this view so succinctly as David Remnick, writing in The New Yorker after Trump’s election:

Suddenly, Germany, led by Angela Merkel, was the lonely bulwark of Europe and Atlanticism. And even she faced a strong nativist challenge, for the sin of admitting thousands of Syrian refugees into the country.

Those that have pinned their unrealistically high hopes on the German chancellor have been ignoring the underlying political reality in Germany, and the complexities of Merkel’s own position. For one thing, Merkel has never been a fully fledged soldier of multiculturalism: in fact, the German chancellor has previously denounced the concept of multikulti as a failure and stressed the need to integrate immigrant populations. In that regard, it was Merkel’s decision to open up Germany’s borders to mass migration from the Middle East that was the real break in policy.

That well-intentioned but inherently reckless move was bound to bear political costs. And sure enough, it has: Merkel’s refugee policy has caused a sharp drop in her approval ratings and has empowered opposition parties, including the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Unlike some of her newfound critics, Merkel has clearly internalized this reality and is charting a course correction on her migrant policy. Throwing her support behind a burqa ban—which over 85% of Germans support in one form or another—is one low-risk way for Merkel to help shore up her right wing and demonstrate that she hears Germans’ legitimate concerns about integration. That may not be palatable to bien pensant liberals on either side of the Atlantic, but ignoring such concerns or dismissing them as pure bigotry would only further empower the populist forces that are opposed to Merkel.

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  • Boritz

    I find it difficult to focus on “political costs” instead of on the assaults and murders that are taking place on Merkel’s watch. Note that an arrest was made on Friday for a murder that took place in October. One can only hope that in this light and context the costs politically are severe and lead to change.

    • Kevin

      In a perfect world perhaps. In thus world all we can focus on is making politicians self interest align with defending their constituents’ interests rather than those of the self appointed aristocracy.

  • JR

    This strikes me as “too little, too late”. It is a transparent attempt by a politician to remain in power. I think it is too late. Merkel will forever be known as someone who invited killing, raping hordes of feral Muslims into her homeland. She already has a lot of blood on her hands, and I expect that count to rise exponentially.

    • solstice

      It is not too late for her to retain power. There are enough self-loathing, masochistic, politically correct, and clueless German voters for her to be re-elected. Sad but true.

  • ——————————

    All this kind of multiculturaism nonsense going on in Germany and other places is so asinine I can’t even find words…and if I did I would probably get kicked off of TAI by the moderators….

  • CosmotKat

    “but the international backlash from liberals has been swift. For those disillusioned with Donald Trump’s election and a series of populist victories across Europe, Merkel has lately been seen as the “liberal West’s last defender,” a solitary champion of liberal values against a rising tide of populism and intolerance.”

    Good grief could you be any more hyperbolic and obtuse? Fully embracing multiculturalism does not make one liberal nor harbor any morally superior values. It’s difficult to detect liberal values in the hearts and minds of the West’s progressives.

  • Beauceron

    “TIME reports: Angela Merkel called for a ban on the burqa, a full-face veil worn mainly by Muslim women”

    Worn mainly by muslim women? Wait, what other groups wear a full-face veil?

    “Merkel has lately been seen as the “liberal West’s last defender,” a solitary champion of liberal values against a rising tide of populism and intolerance.”
    It says a lot about contemporary liberalism when the litmus test for being a good liberal is allowing over a million people to colonize your country, many of whom are deeply illiberal.
    In the end, Merkel’s call for a ban is simply a cold political calculation intended to deflect attention from her disastrous immigration policies.

  • FriendlyGoat

    1) There is a problem when women become convinced they should wear a form of “signage” to advertise religions created and controlled by men, but such is form of freedom of speech going far back in our own traditions with the dress codes imposed upon themselves by the Amish, certain Mennonites and the old-order Mormons, among others.

    2) We may or may not see this overridden with respect to full-face coverings in otherwise-free countries on grounds of security—-expressed ala Merkel as ““In communication between people, which is of course essential to our living together, we have to show our faces,….. So the full veil should be forbidden wherever legally possible.”

    3) Something we should have learned by now is that you can’t peddle an anti-burqa message in the Muslim community on the grounds of more freedom for women—-because there are always some women who will argue that their greatest freedom is in the subjugation to which they have volunteered themselves. In our own country even, we just saw many women argue for women’s rights and be shouted down by other women from the most fervent of our own religious communities. So, no sense going down the wrong philosophical road to a backfire. If men want rid of burqas in certain places, men will probably need to go with the “security” argument.

  • Tom

    “And even she faced a strong nativist challenge, for the sin of admitting thousands of Syrian refugees into the country.”

    This statement encapsulates the level of delusion that writers like Remnick labor under. It should read “hundreds of thousands of various and assorted refugees and economic migrants, many of whom have no interest in returning home or in integrating into German society.”
    If you want to defend that, then you can–but don’t try and minimize Merkel’s monumental mistake.
    There were multiple other means she could have used to alleviate the problems of the Syrian refugees, and she chose precisely none of them

  • solstice

    Only in a world as schizophrenic and morally inverted as ours could defending the burka be described as a form of “Western liberalism.”

  • What most people in the U.S. don’t understand is just how far left-wing most German people today are…don’t forget that they elected Merkel three times.

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