Banning The Burqa Would Alienate Muslims And Fragment German Society

Gisele Marie, a Muslim woman and professional heavy metal musician, looks at guitars at a shop selling musical instruments in
Gisele Marie, a Muslim woman and professional heavy metal musician, looks at guitars at a shop selling musical instruments in Sao Paulo August 13, 2015. Based in Sao Paulo, Marie, 42, is the granddaughter of German Catholics, and converted to Islam several months after her father passed away in 2009. Marie, who wears the Burka, has been fronting her brothers' heavy metal band "Spectrus" since 2012. "People do not expect to see a Muslim woman who uses a Burqa, practices the religion properly and is a professional guitarist who plays in a Heavy Metal band, so many people are shocked by it. But other people are curious and find it interesting, and others think that it is cool, but definitely, many people are shocked," said Marie. Picture taken August 13, 2015. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

The Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) has always supported the development of a free, pluralistic and open society built on Christian values. The party also completely rejects any populist or nationalist ideas.

Ultimately, underlying the burqa debate is the fear that we can never eliminate the differences in our society. That's particularly true of cultural and religious differences produced by migration and the arrival of refugees. Muslims and Islam -- who have been represented negatively since 9/11 -- are at the center of the debate.

The burqa debate isn't simply a debate about a piece of clothing. It's an important cultural discussion; that's why I've decided to take a stand.

It's clear that in this debate over banning burqas, the same arguments that have long been used to criticize headscarves are emerging. They are regarded as religious symbols, proof of the oppression of women, and evidence that Islam is a regressive and "dangerous" religion that is not compatible with our constitution.

This shows that the debate is about much more than the item of clothing itself -- especially since hardly anyone has ever seen a woman walking around Germany in a burqa.

I can't imagine that anyone would be hurt or threatened if 100 or 200 women in Germany chose to walk around in burqas.

The real question is: Do we want to remain committed to a constitution that guarantees religious freedom and general freedom of action -- which most certainly includes the freedom to dress however one wants?

Do we want to preserve the constitutionally enshrined freedom, according to which citizens may do whatever they choose as long as their actions do not harm others, or do we want to deny this right to Germany's Muslim minority?

I can't imagine that anyone would be hurt or threatened if 100 or 200 women in Germany chose to walk around in burqas.

Even if the argument focuses on the oppression of women, there would still be no need for new legislation. Coercion is already illegal, provided there is evidence.

It is worth noting that I'm not a fan of burqas. I eat pork and drink beer from time to time. But at the same time, I stand firmly for people's right to make different choices.

If you take a look at France, where legislation banning burqas already exists, you would see that a ban on burqas doesn't really fulfill any of its supporters' desires.

The French don't have it better in this area. Quite the contrary. The burqa ban has not hindered a single act of terrorism and has in fact led to further marginalization of Muslims. For that reason, I can only suggest diverging from the strategy of Daesh; terrorists seek to make pluralist societies ostracize Muslims.

When the CDU preoccupies itself with questions about garments, and associates clothing with danger, it's just feeding the radical right's discourse.

That's the reason they have attacked targets that stand for the colorful, at times flashy, Western way of life. They want us to perceive these attacks as attacks on our values. And when refugee homes and mosques are attacked in response, Daesh has achieved its goals. That's how unaffiliated Muslims end up suffering and being alienated from our society.

At the same time, we create the great risk of mutual mistrust. This can quickly fragment a society. That's how people become alienated, when in reality, they need to coexist. Whoever wants to ban burqas is inadvertently helping terrorists. This kind of tension is right up their alley.

The burqa debate is also dangerous because it fuels the Islamophobic agenda of radical, populist right-wing groups such as Alternative For Germany (AfD) and Pegida.

To the general population, the burqa debate comes across as a watershed in the "Islamization of our society."

When the CDU preoccupies itself with questions about garments, and associates clothing with danger, it's just feeding the radical right's discourse.

I want to advocate for a balanced and measured position in this heated debate.

Anyone who pushes for a ban on burqas must, as a responsible politician, also consider the possible consequences. We're not merely dealing with a piece of clothing; we're dealing with the unity of our entire society.

A society can only be built on trust. Until proven otherwise, people should assume that others have good intentions. Everyone in the CDU would be well-advised to orient themselves towards this basic conception of society.

Many years ago, the CDU embarked on a process to modernize and become more open and pluralistic. I'm completely convinced that this was the right course. And I believe that the majority of the party shares my position.

From the leadership to the constituency, the CDU is well aware that continuous modernization is the future. Conservative values can only be preserved if the party continuously renews itself.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.