Swiss canton to hold referendum on veil ban?

A petition in Canton Ticino could force a referendum on prohibiting women from wearing burqas in public, a first for the country.

A local committee in Ticino, Switzerland’s Italian-speaking region, said it has collected 11,316 signatures, over a thousand more the required number to launch a referendum. Canton authorities will check the signatures over the next few days, reports say and could then call for a referendum.

According to local newspaper Corriere del Ticino, as well as banning burqas, niqabs and other Islamic headresses, the initiative also aims to ban the use of balaclavas and other headgear that disguise people’s faces. These are sometimes worn by people attending football matches in Switzerland.

If the referendum goes ahead, it will be the first time in Switzerland that citizens have been asked to express an opinion on burqas. A similar ban came into effect in France recently, causing a hot debate on personal and religious freedom in the country and beyond.

In 2009, the Swiss voted to ban the construction of minarets in a country, a decision that has sparked controversy in the Muslim world and in other European countries.

The Local, 20 May 2011