German president defends school burqa ban during Qatar visit
Feb 28, 2011, 12:20 GMT
Doha - German President Christian Wulff on Monday defended his country's ban on burqas in schools, during a question and answer session with Arab students on a visit to Qatar.
'The conscious decision to cover yourself up clashes with the duty of the state to educate its children,' he told a veiled student at the University of Doha.
'Showing your face is part of a free society,' he added.
Wulff was due to return to Berlin on Monday after a three-day visit to the region, which included a trip to Kuwait. A planned visit to Bahrain was cancelled in light of ongoing anti-government protests there.
In Europe the burqa symbolized a closed attitude, Wulff told his audience, and gave the impression its wearer was calling into question equality between the sexes.
'But we don't want to question this equality,' he said.
Another student complained that Islam and terrorism were regarded as one and the same in Europe.
The president replied that it was true that in Germany there was too little knowledge of the religion and that that caused fear.
'You can believe me, as the president of Germany, that Muslims have equal rights and are welcome,' he said.
Commenting on the current protests in North Africa and the Middle East, Wulff said that 'the majority must decide, but minorities must be respected.'
Wulff also visited broadcaster Al Jazeera on the last day of visit. The television station, which is based in Doha and broadcasts in English and Arabic, has played a particularly important role in broadcasting information about the unrest currently sweeping the region.
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