Muslim Women: Switzerland to ban facial coverings
Switzerland could become the latest country to ban facial coverings worn by some Muslim women after activists collected more than 100,000 signatures required to put the proposal to a national vote.
The group, called “Yes to a Mask Ban” delivered the petition on Friday, setting up a vote by 2020.
Some of its leaders also spearheaded the 2009 Swiss ban on new minarets being built in the country.
A delegation of leaders from the group delivered three boxes containing 106,600 signatures to the federal chancellery, part of the Swiss parliament building in Bern.
Full-face coverings such as niqabs and burqas are a polarising issue across Europe, with some arguing that they symbolise discrimination against women and should be outlawed.
The clothing has already been banned in France.
“Facial coverings are a symbol of radical Islam that have nothing to do with religious freedom but are rather an expression of the oppression of women,’’ said Anian Liebrand, a Swiss campaign leader.
“In Switzerland, we show our faces when we talk to each other.’’
Others contended that bans unnecessarily intrude on religious freedom.
“How many people wear these burqas in Switzerland?’’ said Oender Gueneş, a spokesperson for the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland, which represents more than 200 mosques,’’ he said.
Walter Wobmann (R), National Councillor and Co-President committee for “Yes to a Mask Ban’’ (Ja zum Verhuellungsverbot), speaks next to Jean-Luc Addor, National Councillor, in front of boxes containing more than 100,000 signatures collected.
These signatures are required to put the proposal of a ban on facial coverings worn by some Muslim women to a national vote, at the Federal Chancellery in Bern, Switzerland.
“You can probably count those living in Switzerland on maybe one or two hands. The rest are usually rich tourists from the Gulf, two thirds of Switzerland’s 8.4 million residents are Christians.
But its Muslim population has risen to 5 per cent, largely because of immigrants from former Yugoslavia.
“One Swiss canton, Italian-speaking Ticino, already has a similar ban.
“At least two demonstrators who wore veils in defiance after the ban came into effect in July 2016 and paid fines of 260 dollars,’’ Swiss media have reported.
The Switzerland-wide initiative foresees parliament deciding on penalties.
Though the measure would also forbid protesters from concealing their faces during demonstrations, the main focus has been on burqas.
France’s ban was upheld in 2014 by the European Court of Human Rights.
This year Germany’s parliament backed a ban on full-face veils for civil servants, judges and soldiers, while Austria and the Netherlands have also debated the issue.
With signatures in hand, leaders of the Swiss initiative expect three years of wrangling in Switzerland’s system of direct democracy before voters get the chance to register their view.
Liebrand is optimistic his initiative’s path would mirror the progress of the 2009 minaret ban.
“The minaret campaign started as underdogs and was something the big parties didn’t want, but I reckon the facial coverings ban will also resonate with the people,’’ he said.