Swiss to vote on burka ban after petition wins strong support
SWITZERLAND could become the latest country to ban facial coverings worn by some Muslim women after activists collected more than the 100,000 signatures required to put the proposal to a national vote.
The group, called “Yes to a Mask Ban” delivered the petition yesterday, setting up a vote by 2020. Some of its leaders also spearheaded the 2009 Swiss ban on new minarets being built in the country. Three boxes containing 106,600 signatures were taken by the group’s leaders to the parliament building in Bern.
Full-face coverings such as niqabs and burkas are a polarising issue throughout Europe, with some arguing that they symbolise discrimination against women and should be outlawed. The clothing has been banned in France and for civil servants, judges and soldiers in Germany, while Austria and the Netherlands have debated the issue.
“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.
Others contend that bans unnecessarily intrude on religious freedom in a country whose Muslim population has risen to five per cent.
“How many people wear these burkas in Switzerland?” said Oender Gueneş, a spokesman for the Federation Of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland. “You can probably count those living in Switzerland on maybe one or two hands. The rest are usually rich tourists from the Gulf.”