German lawmakers have approved a burka ban for public sector workers as part of a package of measures designed to stop extremist attacks.
The Bundestag parliament voted through the law, which demands that the appearance of anybody who works for the government be “religiously neutral”.
The legislation follows several Islamic terrorist attacks, including one in December where a jihadist used a truck to ram through a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people.
It also comes as Germany readies itself for national elections this September. The legislation must pass Germany’s upper legislative chamber before becoming law.
The ban will apply to civil servants including election authorities, the military and judicial staff while they are at work, the German DPA press agency reported.
It fell short of a total ban in public spaces as demanded by right-wing parties in Germany.
The text of the legislation said: “The state has a duty to present itself in an ideologically and religiously neutral manner.”
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the partial burka ban is about social integration of immigrants which requires “that we make clear and communicate our values and the limits of our tolerance to other cultures.”
The law prohibiting facial coverings allows certain exceptions – for instance, health workers protecting themselves against infections or police officers concealing their identity.
The law also gives powers to authorities to ask people to remove their facial coverings if they need to confirm their identity.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called to ban the burka since December last year, following the pressure from her party. During her party’s conference she urged to ban burka or niqab wherever possible.
She said: “With us, the rule is: show your face, that’s why the full veil is not appropriate, it should be banned.”