Switzerland: plans for ‘burqa ban’ win support

Walter WobmannA large majority of citizens is apparently in favour of introducing a nationwide ban on burqas for Moslem women in Switzerland according to an opinion poll.

More than 60% of respondents said they would outlaw the Muslim religious garment in public spaces, says a survey by the Léger Switzerland polling institute.

The SonntagsBlick newspaper says people of all age groups and both in the German- as well as in the French-speaking parts of the country would vote for a ban. About one in three respondents are apparently against it.

A member of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party [Walter Wobmann, pictured] is planning to launch a campaign next year for a nationwide vote on the issue.

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Swiss police probe arson at Islamic centre

Flums Islamic centre arson

Swiss police say they’re investigating a suspected case of arson at an Islamic center in eastern Switzerland.

Police in the canton (state) of St. Gallen said a man on his way to morning prayers reported a broken window and a smoldering fire early Sunday at the Islamic-Albanian cultural center in the town of Flums.

They say firefighters quickly brought the fire under control and an initial investigation suggested it was set deliberately. No one was hurt and police say they have no indication who may be responsible.

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Complaint filed against politician for Islamophobic tweet

Jean-Luc AddorThe Islamic Central Council of Switzerland has filed charges against a Swiss politician for incitement to commit a crime after he appeared to welcome the recent shooting of a Muslim and called for more such shootings.

Minutes after a man was shot to death in a mosque in northeastern Switzerland on Friday, Jean-Luc Addor, vice-president of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party in canton Valais, tweeted “On en redemande!” (“Let’s have more!”)

The shooting in St Gallen appears to have been part of a family feud. Police arrested a man who was found in the mosque holding a handgun.

The central council said in a statement on Monday that Addor was well-known for his Islamophobic comments. The council said that on August 13, for example, he tweeted: “Islam is disgusting and is only supported by dirty pigs, traitors and collaborators.”

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Swiss voters back limit on immigration

Egerkingen Committee anti-Muslim posterVoters in Switzerland narrowly backed a proposal to limit immigration Sunday, in a blow for the government after it had warned that the measure could harm the Swiss economy and relations with the European Union.

The decision follows a successful last-minute campaign by nationalist groups that stoked fears of overpopulation and rising numbers of Muslims in the Alpine nation. Opinion polls before the vote put opponents of the plan in the lead, but as ballot day neared the gap began to close.

Swiss public television SRF reported that some 50.3 percent of voters eventually backed the proposal to introduce quotas for all types of immigrants. About 49.7 percent voted against it, a difference of fewer than 30,000 votes. Support was particularly strong in rural areas, while cities such as Basel, Geneva and Zurich rejected the proposal.

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Swiss Islamophobes use ‘mass immigration’ referendum to push anti-Muslim line

Egerkingen Committee anti-Muslim posterOn 9 February the Swiss electorate will vote in a referendum on a proposal to reintroduce immigration quotas. The initiative, “against mass immigration”, by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party has been gaining ground, with an opinion poll last month finding 43% support for the proposal, up 6% since December. Le Temps has reported that other right-wing forces backing the initiative have seized the opportunity to promote their own rabidly Islamophobic agenda.

The Egerkingen Committee, which co-ordinated the successful campaign for a “yes” vote in the 2009 referendum over a proposed ban on minarets, is using the current anti-immigration campaign to denounce the threat of “creeping Islamisation”, warning against a “massive increase in the Muslim population” that would alter the “essence of Switzerland”. It has produced a poster that recycles the image of a woman wearing a full veil previously used in the anti-minaret campaign and predicts that there will soon be a million Muslims in Switzerland.

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Swiss canton votes to ban veil

Giorgio GhiringhelliVoters in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking region on Sunday slapped a ban on wearing full-face veils, a move condemned by the country’s Muslim community and Amnesty International. Results from a referendum in the southern canton of Ticino showed that 65 percent of the electorate backed a proposal to forbid the covering of faces in public areas by any group.

Echoing bans in France and Belgium, the measure does not single out Muslims directly. It states that “no-one may mask or hide their face on the public highway, nor in places open to the public, except places of worship, nor those offering a public service”. But in a clear nod to the Islamic tradition of veils for women, it adds that “no-one may require another person to cover their face for reasons of gender”.

The measure was the brainchild of right-wing Ticino populist party “Il Guastafeste” – whose kingpin Giorgio Ghiringhelli [pictured] makes no secret of his criticism of Islam. “This is an historic vote for Ticino,” Ghiringhelli told Switzerland’s Italian-language broadcaster RSI. “And not just for Ticino, but also for Switzerland and abroad, where the Ticino example could spread.”

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Swiss canton to vote on veil ban

On September 22, Ticino will become the first Swiss canton to hold a referendum on banning face-covering headgear in public places. Political commentators say the initiative has good chances of being accepted.

Burkas, full-body cloaks worn by some Muslim women, especially in Afghanistan, are few and far between in the Italian-speaking canton in southern Switzerland. According to official estimates, only about 100 women in Switzerland wear them.

“Hand on heart: who has ever seen a burka in Switzerland?” began an editorial in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in 2010, after canton Aargau tried to get a nationwide ban on burkas in public places (thrown out by the federal parliament two years later). “You might see a few Arab tourists coming out of expensive boutiques in Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse or Geneva’s Rue du Stand – but out in the sticks?”

The Ticino initiative does not explicitly target Muslims – the phrasing to be voted on is “nobody in public streets or squares may veil or hide their face” – but in practice it means women in burkas. The law would apply to burkas and niqabs, Arabic face coverings with a slit for the eyes often worn as part of a full-body covering, but not to headscarves.

Until now, burka bans haven’t stood a chance in Switzerland. Yet pundits believe Ticino could write history and become the first canton to introduce a ban on all face coverings – similar to the controversial one already in force in France – into the cantonal constitution.

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