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The ban of face coverings in Switzerland

In Switzerland the public voted in favor of banning face coverings, including the burqa or niqab Muslim women wear. The official results show that on Sunday the motion passed by 51.1% to 48.8%.

The idea was introduced by the right-wing party (SVP), which campaigned using slogans that read “stop extremism”. Walter Wobmann, the initiator of the idea, claims that “In Switzerland, our tradition is that you show your face. That is a sign of our basic freedoms,”. He called facial covering “a symbol for this extreme, political Islam which has become increasingly prominent in Europe and which has no place in Switzerland”.

The Swiss government argued that this ban violates basic human rights, since the state cannot dictate what women wear and urged the population to vote against the motion. The Amnesty International stated; “After the ban on minarets, a majority of Swiss voters has once again backed an initiative that discriminates against a single religious community and needlessly stirs up fears and division,” and “The veiling ban is not a measure for women’s liberation, but a dangerous symbolic policy that violates freedom of expression and religion.”

Swiss Islamic groups called it a “dark day” for them. In fact they released a statement that reads; "Today's decision opens old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality, and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority”. The central council of Muslims also promised legal challenges to laws implementing the ban and a fundraising to help the women who are fined.

A research by the University of Lucerne shows that in Switzerland there are not any women who wear a burqa and only 30 who wear a niqab. In Switzerland 5% of 8.6 million are Muslims ( from Turkey, Bosnia, Kosovo).

Around the world multiple countries have also had similar motions. Specifically, France banned wearing a full face veil in public back in 2011 and Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Bulgaria have established full or partial bans on wearing face coverings in public.

It seems that extremism has shifted to islamophobia. Is this ban and similar measures (read article; Macron’s strategy) the only solution to extremism?


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