Switzerland votes to ban wearing of the niqab in public spaces

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IslamNews – Switzerland has followed France, Belgium and Austria after narrowly voting in a referendum to ban women from wearing the burqa or niqab in public spaces, including on the street, on public transport and in shops and restaurants.

The controversial proposal gained the support of 51.21 percent of voters and the majority of the country’s 26 cantons, according to official provisional results published by the federal government.

The referendum had been put forward by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which campaigned with slogans such as “Stop extremism” and framed the referendum as a verdict on the role of Islam in public life.

Ahead of the vote, Walter Wobmann, chairman of the referendum committee and an SVP lawmaker, described Muslim face coverings as “a symbol for this extreme, political Islam which has become increasingly prominent in Europe and which has no place in Switzerland”.

“In Switzerland, our tradition is that you show your face. That is a sign of our basic freedoms,” he said.

Switzerland’s parliament and the seven-member executive council that constitutes the country’s federal government had opposed the referendum proposal. They had argued that full facial veils represented a “fringe phenomenon”, and instead proposed an initiative that would force people to lift their facial coverings when asked to confirm their identity to officials.

The proposal in the referendum did not mention Islam directly and was also aimed at stopping violent street protesters from wearing masks. However, the vote was widely referred to as “the burqa ban”.

The only exceptions include places of worship and other sacred sites. Face coverings will also be allowed if worn for health and safety reasons, because of the weather and in situations where it is considered a “local custom” to do so, such as at carnivals, according to the text of the proposal published by the Swiss federal government.

There will be no additional exceptions, for example for tourists, the government document said.

Source: Middle East Eye

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