The German state of Bavaria is to ban the full face veil in schools, universities, polling stations and government workplaces, the regional government has announced.
The move, which is being proposed by region’s governing Christian Social Union (CSU), comes just months before the Federal Election, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s handling of the migrant crisis is likely to be a key issue.
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said: “Communication happens not only via language but also via looks, facial expressions and gestures.
“It’s the foundation of our interactions with each other and it’s the basis of our free and democratic order. Concealing your face is at odds with this culture of communication.”
Bavaria’s CSU is the sister party of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but has taken a far stronger line on mass immigration.
The latest move comes just two months after the state passed a law requiring immigrants to respect the “dominant” local culture.
However, the opposition Social Democrats tried to filibuster the law, with the party’s leader in the Bavarian parliament saying: “We do not need a guiding culture in this integration law because all this is already covered much better in the Bavarian constitution.”
Emilia Müller, the state’s social affairs minister, defended the proposal, saying: “It prevents the emergence of parallel societies governed by Sharia, religious codes or tribal customs, instead of our laws and values.”
The law was eventually passed by 95 votes to 47 after a record 16-hour debate.
Former Bavarian premier and CSU leader Edmund Stoiber said last year that Germany must completely close its borders to migrants if was to deal with the immigration crisis, warning of “disastrous consequences” for Europe.
If Germany did not secure its borders, he added, there would be a “confrontation” between the CSU and Mrs Merkel’s party.
Angela Merkel is facing a tough battle for re-election later this year, potentially facing defeat at the hands of a reinvigorated Social Democrat party lead by former European Parliament President Martin Schulz.