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Legal question Mosque dome challenge may test Swiss minaret ban

Minaret with the words 'Free Minarets' written on it

The controversial ban on minaret construction in Switzerland has drawn criticism.

(Keystone / Peter Schneider)

A Bern politician looks set to test Switzerland’s decade-long ban on the construction of minarets by objecting to a dome that is planned for a religious community building in the Swiss capital.

Henri-Charles Beuchat from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party has challenged the construction of the 3.5-metre structure that would also be illuminated in the evenings. He says the dome would violate a 2009 nationwide vote that controversially decided to ban further minaret construction.

The dome is scheduled to be built on top of the Bern House of Religionsexternal link that houses eight religious groups. The dome would complement the top of a Hindu temple that is currently visible above the building’s flat roof.

The debate could centre on whether the dome actually represents a minaret, a type of tower built into or beside mosques. But it could also test the legality of the minaret ban and how it can be applied – if at all.

Three years after voters banned the construction of minarets, the Swiss federal court ruled that Switzerland’s obligations under international law, such as the right to religious expression, could outweigh constitutional changes forced by initiatives. Since 2009, there have been no applications to construct minarets in Switzerland, so this ruling has never been tested.

The country has also attracted criticism for further votes that have been viewed as impinging the rights of Muslims. Cantons Ticino and St Gallen voted to ban the wearing of face-covering clothing – known as the Burka Ban. A nationwide vote on the issue is pending.

swissinfo.ch/mga

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