updated 10/31/2006 6:14:28 PM ET 2006-10-31T23:14:28

A Turkish-born lawmaker who urged Muslim women in Germany to take off their head scarves has received death threats and is now under police protection, a spokesman for her party said Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, Ekin Deligoz, a member of Germany’s opposition Green Party, said “the head scarf is a symbol of women’s oppression.”

“I appeal to Muslim women: Arrive in the present day, arrive in Germany — you live here, so take off the head scarf,” she told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “Show that you have the same civil and human rights as men.”

Markus Kamrad, a spokesman for the Green Party, said Deligoz “is under protection following the recommendation of the security authorities. ... There have been threats.”

On Tuesday, German Muslim leaders condemned the threats, although they said they disagreed with her stance.

“We have a different position regarding the head scarf, but that’s not critical in these days. The most important thing is that all of us stand up for the freedom of opinion,” Mounir Azzaoui, spokesman for the Central Council of Muslims, said after a meeting between Muslim groups and Green Party leaders.

Germany’s interior minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said it was “absolutely legitimate that a woman who is Muslim herself ... makes this appeal.”

“That is her opinion, she can do that; we as legislators do not regulate that,” Schaeuble said on Inforadio. “But what we as legislators assert with all determination is that this opinion can be expressed, and that one should not need police protection for it.”

Similar controversy in Britain
The head scarf issue echoes a recent controversy in Britain, where former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he asked women to remove their veils before coming to see him in his office. It also underlines tension between the secular outlook of many Turkish immigrant women in Germany and more traditional Turkish Muslim ways.

Germany has more than 3 million Muslims, most of them from Turkey.

After the meeting with Muslim groups at parliamentary offices in Berlin, Deligoz said, “All of us want that freedom of expression in this country is possible and that you can’t play religion off against freedom of expression.”

The Green Party’s co-leader in parliament, Renate Kuenast, said she had complained to Turkey’s ambassador in Berlin of “unacceptable” reactions in Turkish media to Deligoz’s comments.

One newspaper report compared the lawmaker with the Nazis and another drew a parallel with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch lawmaker who has been a prominent critic of Islam.

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