On September 20, 2023, the Lower House of the Swiss Parliament voted to permanently adopt a legislative ban on face coverings such as the burqa worn by some Muslim women. The National Council voted by 151 votes to 29 for the bill already approved by the upper house. This project was pushed through a right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party, which easily overcame the reluctance expressed by centrists and the Greens.
The ban on the burqa
The move follows a national referendum two years ago in which Swiss voters narrowly approved a ban on the niqab, which leaves slits for the eyes, and the burqa, as well as ski masks and bandanas worn by some demonstrators. With the vote of the Lower House, Parliament enshrined the ban in federal law and set a fine of 1,000 francs (about $1,100) for violators.
The measure prohibits covering the nose, mouth and eyes in public spaces and private buildings accessible to the public, although it allows some exceptions. Few women in Switzerland wear a full face mask like the burqa, which is perhaps better known as a garment worn in Afghanistan.
Two Swiss cartoon companies, Southern Tinco and Northern St. Gallen, already have similar laws. The national legislation will allow Switzerland to align with countries such as Belgium and France which have adopted similar measures.
The campaign to ban the veil was criticized by Muslim groups during the referendum. Inès El Shiekh, spokesperson for Foulard Pourpre (a Muslim women’s group), told an international news agency that only a small handful of women in the country carry and follow the Islamic religion. clothing customs. The Swiss Islamic Council stressed that the vote reflected the spread of anti-Muslim sentiments throughout the country.
History of the right
The initiative to ban the veil was launched by Egerkinger Komitee, a group of politicians from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, which says it is organizing “resistance against the pretensions to power of political Islam in Switzerland.” The bill does not name burqas or niqabs but prohibits people from hiding their faces in public spaces such as public transport, restaurants or while walking in the street, specifying that eyes, nose and mouth must be visible .
For example, a Muslim woman can wear a hijab that covers her hair, but cannot wear a niqab, a garment that only shows the eyes, or a burqa, a full veil that also covers the face. They are authorized in places of worship. There are other exceptions to the law, including mask wearing for safety, climate and health reasons, meaning people are allowed to wear masks to protect against COVID-19.
Demography of Switzerland
Muslims make up 5 percent of Switzerland’s population of 8.6 million. Most have roots in Turkey, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Kosovo. According to the University of Lucerne’s estimate, only 30 women wear the niqab in the country. Switzerland is one of five countries where face coverings are banned.
The French banned the wearing of the full veil in 2011 and recently, the abaya. Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Bulgaria (Balkans) completely or partially prohibit the wearing of masks in public. Amnesty International has called the veil ban a dangerous policy that violates human rights, including freedom of expression and religion.