The legislative initiative, which is currently up for a vote, doesn’t explicitly state that Muslim women residing in Switzerland are targeted, but will usher in a ban on facial coverings, such as niqabs, in public.
On Sunday, 7 March, the Swiss are set to vote on whether they want to ban full facial coverings in public places. The text of the ban doesn’t specifically mention Muslim veils, stating only that “no one shall cover their face in public, nor in areas accessible to the public or in areas where services are ordinarily accessible to all”.
The proposed initiative, however, is largely seen as targeting minority Muslim women living in Switzerland and wearing niqabs (a veil over the lower half of the face), burqas (covering both body and face) and other face-covering garments.
The initiative envisages a few exceptions to the ban, which is believed to have security concerns underlying it, with the prohibition not applicable to “places of worship” and where there are “health reasons” for that.
The so-dubbed “burqa ban” comes almost 12 years after the Swiss approved a ban on the construction of new minarets that was supported by nearly 60% of voters back in 2009 amid spiralling concerns over Islamist militants’ activities in Europe and the Middle East.
If the new ban is voted for by the majority of citizens, the country will join several others that have already introduced respective legislation – the Netherlands, France, Austria, Belgium,…