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Anti-minaret poster comes under fire

A poster used by the rightwing People's Party in its anti-minaret campaign has triggered controversy in Switzerland.

It shows a woman in a burka and a Swiss flag pierced by minarets springing up out of the ground.

An initiative to forbid the construction of minarets in Switzerland comes to a nationwide vote on November 29.

Basel city authorities say the poster is racist and have banned it in publicly-owned spaces.

A spokesman for the construction and traffic department of the half-canton of Basel City said the decision was based on a law against spreading racist ideologies or classing groups by ethnic, religious, cultural or physical characteristics.

Opinion is divided in other cities. Bern, Lucerne, Zurich and Winterthur are waiting for an expert opinion of the Federal Commission against Racism before taking a decision. Geneva and Lausanne say they will decide on Wednesday. But St Gallen says it sees nothing discriminatory in the poster and has approved it for display.

One of Switzerland's major media groups, Ringier, has said it will not publish the poster, while the other major group, Tamedia, will leave the decision to each publication. However, the most important papers in the group, including the Tages-Anzeiger and the free 20 Minuten dailies, will not carry it.

A spokesman for the group said that when taking a decision the papers would consider the legal and ethical aspects.

Meanwhile the committee behind the anti-minaret initiative reacted angrily to Basel's decision, describing it as "purely arbitrary", and an attack on free speech.

Earlier this year the People's Party ruffled feathers with a poster implying that Romanians and Bulgarians were like greedy ravens waiting to descend on Switzerland, and even more famously in 2007 used a poster comparing "criminal foreigners" to black sheep needing to be kicked out of the country.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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