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Legislation to ban full facial coverings in public places could be enacted in Switzerland

DUBLIN: Switzerland may legislate for a ban on full facial coverings in public places. The proposal was backed by 51.21% of Swiss voters and a majority of federal Switzerland’s cantons.

The new ban means that no one can completely cover their face, whether in shops or in open areas. There will be exceptions for places including worship centres.

Seeing Muslim women without Islamic full-face veils is an unusual sight on Swiss streets. Yet there were only very narrow support for banning full facial coverings in public places.

The vote comes after years of negotiations following similar bans in other European countries and some Muslim-majority countries. The proposal did not mention the burqa or niqab, which leaves the eyes uncovered.

A 2019 Federal Statistical Office survey found that Muslims make up only 5.5% of the Swiss population. Most of them have roots in Yugoslavia. Switzerland is a rich country with a population of 8.6 million.

Here, where the system of direct democracy exists, national voting can take place on any issue that collects 100,000 signatures. Every three months, there will be rounds of votes.

A 2009 vote that banned the construction of minaret towers on mosque sparked protests in some foreign countries.

“Besides being useless, this text is racist and sexist,” said Ines El-Shikh, spokeswoman for the Purple Headscarves feminist Muslim women’s group.

Jean-Luc Addor, campaign spokesman for the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), said that the full-face veil “is an extreme form of Islam.”

He said that “fortunately” there are not many women wearing burqa in Switzerland. But the spokesman added: “when a problem exists, we deal with it before it gets out of control”.

There were poster campaigns in and out of the cities for and against the law.

Stop radical Islam! and Stop extremism! And also rival posters saying: No to an absurd, useless and Islamophobic ‘anti-burqa’ law.

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