German politician lectures Muslims on Enlightenment values

The German interior minister came out strongly against the burka Thursday, saying the body-covering garment worn by some religious Muslims impeded communication and obstructed integration. Calling on German and European Muslims to embrace European laws and norms, the minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, said he generally accepted the rights of Muslims to wear the head covering of their choice but that the burka was a step too far.

“Politicians should not deal with headgear of men and women. But the burka is different,” he said in outlining Germany’s agenda for its European Union presidency. “You can’t see the eyes of someone, and that is the opposite of what we believe communication should be like. Integration requires communication, and we don’t want to isolate each other.”

Schäuble, a leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center right Christian Democratic Union, added that he wanted to make Muslim integration a key issue of the six-month EU presidency, which began this month. Alluding to the recent terrorist plots in Britain, Denmark and Germany – which are alleged to have been perpetrated by second-generation home-grown radicals – he said it was essential to prevent the entrenchment of “parallel communities” where Muslims lived on the fringes of European society.

Pointing to a values gap apparent in some elements of Islam, he noted that Christianity had undergone an Enlightenment after the excesses of the Crusades, while parts of the Islamic world had not experienced it. He added that Muslims in Germany needed to accept universal human rights, including the equal treatment of men and women.

New York Times, 11 January 2007

See also “Islam urged to accept Enlightenment”, Boston Globe, 12 January 2007