The western German state of Baden-Wurttemberg on Tuesday banned full-face coverings, often known as burqa or niqab, in schools, saying that the full-face Islamic covering does not belong in a free society. This new regulation comes at a time when the topic of Muslim face coverings has been hotly debated in Germany and follows a ruling by a court in Hamburg that reversed that city’s own ban, reported Deutsche Welle.

State Premier and prominent politician Winfried Kretschmann conceded that cases of full-face coverings in schools were rare. But he said that a legal ruling was necessary for the rare cases which existed. Kretschmann said that using full-face veiling measures did not belong in a free society.

He also added that such a ban at the university level, where students are adults, was a more complex question. For now, the rule in Baden-Wurttemberg will only apply to primary and secondary education.

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Advocates of full-face covering bans in Germany argue that forcing girls to wear them infringes on their rights. Prominent members of conservative parties, which includes Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), have called for a nationwide full-face veil ban.

It was ruled in 2004 that it was similar to wearing a religious symbol like a cross, which is also banned in the country. The law in France does not apply to religious schools. Currently, full-face veils have been banned in neighboring countries such as The Netherlands, France, Denmark and Austria.

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