Racism row in Switzerland over minaret ban referendum

SVP sheep posterAnother racism row flared up in Switzerland after the country’s far-right party managed to trigger a referendum on banning minarets in the country.

The demand for a popular vote was driven by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which used an image of a white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag to illustrate its anti-immigration policies in last year’s election campaign.

The SVP has a record of using the country’s system of direct democracy to provoke debate about immigration. This year it lost a referendum on moves to make it harder to obtain a Swiss passport.

The party said it had chosen minarets because they were “symbols of political-religious imperialism” rather than simply traditional architecture. Dominique Baettig, an SVP MP, said: “It is like the veil, it is a symbol of non-integration. We hope that this initiative sends a clear signal that we are calling a halt to the Islamisation of Switzerland. Our hard-won individual liberties are being eroded and that is not acceptable.”

Jasmin Hutter, vice-president of the party, added: “Many women, even socialists, signed this petition because not one Swiss woman can tolerate the way that Muslim men treat their wives.”

Times, 9 July 2008