Germany could soon force a nationwide ban on the burqa worn by conservative Muslim women after Chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed a proposal by the Interior Ministry to outlaw the dress.
Merkel supported the burqa ban, which could resonate in policy making in the rest of the world including the US and the western Europe, after she was endorsed as Christian Democratic Union party's (CDU) candidate for Chancellor in the next election.
"Full veiling is not appropriate here ... The full veil must be banned wherever that is legally possible. It does not belong to us," Merkel told the CDU delegates on Tuesday.
"In communication between people, which is of course essential to our living together, we have to show our faces," Merkel said.
Merkel, who has been a vocal supporter of migrant rights and raised hackles in German politics by allowing a record number of Muslim refugees from the Middle East in the last couple of years, made a surprise policy U-turn in announcing the intent to legally ban the conservative Muslim dress.
Burqa is a flowing, loose dress that covers the entire body from head to foot, including the face. The rise of radical Islam and the terror threat made many countries jittery over the full-cover dress. However, paradoxically, the opposition to the traditional garment only fuelled more hardliners vouching for the right to follow the religious dress code.
Merkel's apparent right leaning comments met with mixed reactions from world leaders and from within her own party. British conservative leader and outspoken critic of Europe's immigration policies Nigel Farage said while he welcomed the move it had come too late in the day. "Too late ... The horse has bolted," the UK Independence Party leader wrote on Twitter.
"What hypocrisy! To demand a burqa ban but to studiously conduct arms sales to the exporters of the burqa," Germany's leftist leader Sevim Dagdelen said, according to Deutsche Welle.
Merkel also said the record influx of refugees in 2015 is something that will not repeat in Germany. "A situation like that [in] the summer of 2015 can and should not be repeated," she said, adding that the refugees in Germany should aim at full integration in the country.