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Tourism trouble

Ticino as a test case for a burka ban

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A niqab and burka ban was approved in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino, a popular destination for Arab tourists. It has now inspired a similar national initiative. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

A people’s initiative has been handed in for a Switzerland-wide ban on the wearing of veils or any kind of clothing that hides the face.

The committee that launched the initiative - mostly rightwing politicians and activists - says Switzerland is threatened by “Islamisation” and that people who hide their faces pose a security risk. In 2009, the same committee organised a successful vote to ban the building of new minarets, which led to international condemnation.

The text for the nationwide headwear ban followed a similar vote held in Ticino in 2013. About 65% of the canton’s residents agreed to stop people from covering or hiding their faces in public. The prohibition has not yet come into force, and tourism bosses fear that it will keep rich Arab tourists away.

France was the first European country to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public places in 2010. In July 2014, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the law. A similar prohibition is in force in Belgium, as well as several towns in Italy, Spain and Russia.