Swiss to vote on burka ban af­ter pe­ti­tion wins strong sup­port

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Our For­eign Staff

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.”

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