“I want to return to Syria – very afraid here,” a Syrian refugee said outside a refugee centre in the small eastern town of Freital in Germany, which is a home for ugly protests against asylum seekers.
Have you ever visited someone’s house when their parents are around? It’s different. Especially when you are meeting their parents for the first time. You play strictly by their rules in other to be liked and to be invited the next time.
Germany is that house. You are invited in but are simply not comfortable because you are sitting on the cushion with their parents’ eyes watching you like an eagle.
Last year, Angela Merkel admitted a lot of refugees into Germany. This turned Germany into an example for other countries to follow in managing the refugee crisis in Europe. The majority of the people they took in were Muslims. This border opening for immigrants was followed by heavy protests, which seemed more like anti-Muslim protests than anti-migrant protests. Angela Merkel stood against them. However, on Wednesday, she made a move that could easily be interpreted as anti-Muslim when she called for the partial banning of the burqa (full-face veils).
“The full veil is not appropriate here, it should be forbidden wherever that is legally possible. It does not belong to us,” she said at the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) gathering. This comes a few months after her one of her closest ally, the general secretary of the Christian Democrat (CDU) party, Peter Tauber described the burqa veil as being “contrary to integration.” But what really is integration when one has to fully compromise their choice of dressing? Isn’t integration a way of accepting a person despite his cultural, social, or religious belief with the aim of living in harmony? Why does another group have to compromise to fit in the narrative of a larger group?
However, Peter Tauber, who believes that wearing burqa will somehow disrupt integration isn’t alone in his close-mindedness concerning Muslims. 60 percent of Germans don’t just believe that burqas stop integration, they believe that the presence of Muslims threatens the process entirely.
A new poll has shown that almost two-thirds of Germans do not think that Muslims belong in their country. This is a significant increase from 47 percent Islamophobes to 60 percent within 6 years when a similar survey was last conducted. The opening of German boarder to over one million immigrants in 2015 alone didn’t only see the rise of anti-Islam/anti-immigrant campaigns, it also gave rise to hostility against Muslims. In 2015, there were 1,000 attacks on refugee shelters in Germany, which was a fivefold increase from the previous year, 2014. And in another incident which involved an arson attack on a refugee shelter, people clapped and cheered as it burned down.
There is already an obvious sentiment against Muslims, and it wouldn’t be far reaching if we say that this new move by Angela Merkel, who has been increasingly prosecuted for her stance on opening German border for refugees by Germans, plays on this bigoted sentiment. This sentiment is largely held by Germans and influential political factions. And her statement is simply because she has sought to run for another term in office.
Anthony Hall, editor-in-chief of American Herald Tribune, also agrees that Angela Merkel’s move to call for the ban of burqas, which other political parties have independently called for, is simply meant to appease certain political factions.
“So Angela Merkel is trying to pander to the political mood of the time and show that she is against multiculturalism and sort of go along with this. [She is] using the niqab as a kind of symbol because it arouses obviously hostile attitudes, xenophobic attitudes. [She is] using this symbol to make political hay and try to get back in [the good] graces of her electorate,” he writes.
He also went on to say that if a person wants to wear a veil to express her religious conviction, the “high road” would be to accept it, due to the obvious reasons of the European standpoint on the freedom of expression, freedom of dress and freedom of conscience.
What Hall has highlighted is the proper definition of integration, which involves tolerance and acceptance. Even though this might be a political move for Angela in her bid to win electoral votes during the upcoming election, she needs to understand that her statement will give validation to bigotry. When her sales man/woman kind of politics is done, and she eventually wins votes, the implication of her call will linger on. It might seem as just a call for ban of burqas but in a country plagued by Islamophobia, it is simply more than that. It is known that bigots can take a policy that fits candidly into their narrative and blow it up to another dimension entirely.