Daily US Times: Switzerland has narrowly voted in favour of banning face coverings in public, including the niqab or burka worn by Muslim women.
Official results figured out that the measure had passed by 51.2% to 48.8% in Sunday’s referendum.
The referendum was put forward by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) which campaigned with slogans such as “Stop extremism”.
In response of the result, a leading Swiss Islamic group said it was “a dark day” for Muslims.
The Central Council of Muslims said in a statement: “Today’s decision opens old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality, and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority,” adding that it would challenge the decision in court.
The government of Switzerland had argued against the ban saying it was not up to the state to dictate what women wear.
Almost no-one in Switzerland wears a burka and only around 30 women wear the niqab, according to research by the University of Lucerne (in German).
About 5% of Switzerland’s population of 8.6 million people are Muslim, most originating from Turkey, Kosovo and Bosnia.
The people of Switzerland are given a direct say in their own affairs under the country’s system of direct democracy. They are regularly invited to vote on various issues in regional or national referendums.
It is not the first time Islam has figured in a referendum in the country. In 2009 swiss people went against government advice and voted to ban the building of minarets – a proposal also put forward by the SVP which said minarets were a sign of Islamisation.
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