Well this is all getting more absurd by the moment. Today, Angela Merkel proposed a ban on the burqa and niqab, “wherever it is legally possible.”
The proposal was laid out in a speech to fellow center-right CDU party members in the hope of rallying the party around her bid for retaining the Chancellorship in 2017. Yet in the past, the furthest Ms. Merkel ever went was to say that women who wear burqas have, “little chance of integrating in Germany.”
Hence it must be noted that the timing of all this is quite peculiar.
One must wonder whether this policy proposal has any connection to a certain discovery relating to the case of Maria Ladenburger, a 19-year-old medical student from Freiburg.
On October 16th, Ms. Ladenburger was cycling home in the early hours of the morning when she was raped and then drowned in a river. Her dead body was found by a jogger that same day.
But by December 3rd, international media reported that the assailant was a “17-year-old” Afghan asylum seeker. Later it emerged that his name is Hussein Khavari. This caused considerable outrage in Germany, not least because Ms. Ladenburger purportedly volunteered in refugee centers in her spare time. It is still unclear whether Hussein Khavari had been acquainted with her while she was doing volunteer work.
Adding to the outrage was the fact that regional media outlets initially chose not to report on the identity of the assailant. This was allegedly due to German laws protecting the privacy of minors. Yet one has to wonder whether it also has to do with a Cologne-style cover-up of the identity of the perpetrator, out of fear of causing anti-migrant backlash.
More details continue to emerge from the case, including the curious fact that, in the memory of their daughter, Ms. Ladenburger’s parents have asked the public to donate money to a charity that helps refugees. The cognitive dissonance here is simply astounding. Impressive, even.
Now, back to Ms. Merkel’s call for a ban on burqas and niqabs. It seems entirely plausible to many that Ms. Merkel is suddenly adopting a tough stance against Islam in order to prevent voters from flocking to the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which has seized on the case of Ms. Ladenburger to warn of the dangers of Ms. Merkel’s “open-door” immigration policy.
But if Ms. Merkel is so concerned about niqabs and burqas, one has to wonder why she allowed in hundreds of thousands of migrants from cultures in which the donning of such garments is widespread, and in certain cases a requirement for women.
Remember, according to the Pew Research Center, only 30% of Afghans believe that women should have a choice to cover themselves. In other words, 70% of Afghans believe that it is imperative for women to cover themselves up. Moreover, it is precisely in Afghanistan under the Taliban that the burqa, the most restrictive garment of all, had seen its most recent resurgence.
It does seem plausible that the very reason Ms. Ladenburger was attacked was precisely because she was not covered up. In certain Islamic cultures in which only covered women are deemed to be “modest,” many people deem uncovered women to be “immodest” and therefore not worthy of respect. And this is exactly the type of attitude that leads to the sexual assault of uncovered women.
So Ms. Merkel is right to call for a ban of face-coverings. But, again, if it were so important to her to prevent face-coverings from becoming a widespread phenomenon in her country, why did she invite over a million people into Germany from cultures in which this sort of thing is commonplace?
Or does Ms. Merkel believe that upon arrival into Germany, migrants with regressive views about women will overnight become more enlightened?
Or is it all just a bit of cynical electioneering done in order to woo a populace that is growing increasingly wary of her immigration policies?
Regardless of what the answer may be, it seems that Ms. Merkel’s high-minded, sanctimonious rhetoric of 2015 is being increasingly contradicted by some uglier realities on the ground. And we shall be watching very carefully to see how it all plays out.