On Sunday, the Swiss voted by a narrow majority in favor of a ban on masking the face, a sign against radical Islam, according to his supporters, an xenophobic and gender-biased initiative.
The text, proposed by the right-wing populist party UDC, received 51.21% of the vote and a majority of the cantons, according to official results published by the federal government.
It was supported by feminists and part of the secular left electorate.
“we are happy. We don’t want there to be a radical Islam in our country, ”the Swiss SVP president, Marco Chiesa, launched on Blick.tv.
The text does not refer to the burqa – a large piece of cloth that covers from head to toe and has a mesh slit at eye level – or the niqab that covers the entire body and face except for the eyes, but the campaign posters left no doubt about the purpose of the referendum.
By voting against the wearing of the full headscarf in the public sphere, Switzerland joins France, Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium and Denmark, after years of wrangling.
Therefore, it is now prohibited to cover the entire face in public places – which also applies to masked protesters – but exceptions are provided for places of worship, for example.
The Swiss were also in favor of a trade agreement with Indonesia (51.65%), but largely refused to introduce a privately managed federal electronic identity (64.36% to reject).
Myriam Mastour, a member of Les Foulards Violets and Feminist Strike, said on public RTS channel that “yes” risks “downplaying the xenophobic and racist atmosphere” against Muslim women. On the one hand, she was pleased with the small difference between yes and no, while early polls gave the first vice president’s initiative widely favored.
According to opponents, wearing the full veil is not an issue in Switzerland, as it is estimated that only a few dozen women wear this method, and generally convert to Islam. Above all, we see wealthy tourists dressed this way frequent the elegant boutiques in Geneva or Zurich.
Mohamed Hamdaoui, a member of the Berne High Council and founder of the Face-to-Face campaign at ATS, said the result was “a great relief.” “This vote indicates the existence of awareness,” said this member of the Socialist Party, who claims to be a secular Muslim. He stressed that it was “an opportunity to say a pause to Islamism” and not “to Muslims who clearly have their place in this country.”
Banning the full veil is not a measure intended to liberate women. On the contrary, it is a dangerous symbolic policy that violates freedom of expression and religion, ”charges Cyril Huguenot, Head of Women’s Rights at Amnesty International Switzerland, in a press release.
According to figures released by the Census Bureau for 2019, about 5.5% of the Swiss population are Muslims, most of them are from the former Yugoslavia, so this tradition of wearing is absent.
The federal government and parliament opposed this measure.
In 2009, the Swiss had already voted to ban the construction of minarets in mosques, sparking outrage in Muslim countries and the approval of European nationalist parties.
This initiative is popular with the vast majority of cantons. Only four cantons said no: Geneva, Graubünden, Basel City and Appenzell Ausserhooden.