Switzerland voters voted to a ban on full facial coverings, including burqa and niqab, in almost all public places in a narrowly contested referendum on Sunday. Moreover, the results of the votes mean facial covering will not be allowed in all publicly accessible places, including in public offices, in restaurants, in shops, on the streets, on public transport, and in the countryside.
According to official provisional results from the federal government, the controversial proposal supports around 51.21% of overall voters and the majority of the twenty-six cantons of the country. However, the only exception includes sacred sites and worship places. Moreover, people should allow wearing a mask for safety and health reasons, because of the weather and circumstances where it considered a local custom to do so, such as at festivals, according to the proposal published by the Switzerland federal government.
Switzerland narrowly votes to ban face covering in public
Swiss voters have approved a ban on full facial coverings including niqab and burqa in nearly all public places in a closely contested referendum on Sunday.
March 07, 2021 at 10:52PM pic.twitter.com/nD67wN7pbd
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The government document says that there will be no other exceptions, such as for tourists. Furthermore, the proposal put forward by many political groups doesn’t mention Islam specifically. However, it mainly referred to as the burqa and niqab ban in Swiss media. Several Swiss religious organizations, civic and human rights groups, as well as the federal government criticized the proposal.
The Swiss Federal Council rejected the proposal
Whereas, the Swiss Council of Religions, which represents all Switzerland religious communities, slammed the proposal earlier this year, emphasizing that the human right to religious freedom also protects all types of religious practices such as dress codes. According to the government documents, the Switzerland Federal Council, which serves as the federal government of the country, and the Swiss Parliament also rejected the move as going too far and requested people vote against it.
Both bodies listed a counter-proposal to the ban, which would want people to remove any face covering and show their face to officials and police if necessary, for identification procedure. Those criticizing ban also highlighted it appears to be mostly useless. According to a book by a researcher at the University of Lucerne, Andreas Tunger-Zanetti, who has been studying Islam since 2007 in Islam, almost nobody wears a burqa in Switzerland, and people wearing a niqab is just three dozen at the most.
The Sunday referendum was the conclusion of many years of debates over the matter and came twelve years after another referendum banned the construction of minarets in Switzerland. Two Swiss regions – Ticino and St Gallen – already announced a ban of full facial coverings in the past, according to the official website of the Federal Government. Whereas, in many other member states, complete face coverings are only illegal at protests.
Amnesty International criticized the result of the vote as anti-Muslim. While once again, Swiss voters approved an initiative that victimizes against one religious community specifically, unnecessarily fueling fear and division, the group stated on Sunday.
Several European Countries already banned face coverings
Partial bans, local bans, and bans of facial coverings are already in many European countries, including Belgium, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands. France was the first country to ban niqabs and burqas in public spaces in 2011. In addition, the European Court of Human Rights sustained the ban in 2014. Whereas, in 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (OHCHR) said the facial covering ban violates the basic human rights of Muslim women and risks restricting them to their homes.
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The Central Council of Muslims in Switzerland named the result of the vote “a dark day” for Swiss Muslims. It also issued a statement saying that the recent decision opens old wounds, expands the principle of legal discrimination, and sends a strong signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority. Social commentators say that the four lac Muslims of Switzerland, who marked up about 5.5% of the total population, are better united than those in Germany and France.