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Burka ban Initiative targets religious headgear in schools

Niqabs and burkas are the source of political and social debate in Switzerland

(Keystone)

The Swiss People’s Party has launched a popular initiative calling for a ban on religious headgear in schools in canton Valais. It follows a successful initiative in 2013 that banned the wearing of face covering headgear in all public places in canton Ticino.

The website of the rightwing party’s cantonal faction said that Islam is a “political religion” intent on “conquest” rather than integration. The text also claims that Muslim elements in Switzerland are attempting to impose Sharia law in the country.

The launching of  the popular initiative in Valais on Friday follows an unsuccessful attempt to achieve the same result in the cantonal parliament last year.

But the legality of such a prohibition is still uncertain in Switzerland. In recent years, the Swiss courts have ruled in favour of pupils wearing religious headgear in two separate schools. In 2012, parliament rejected an attempted ban in canton Aargau.

But in November of last year, the Swiss government upheld the Ticino initiative vote, citing a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights to uphold France’s 2010 ban on garments that covered the face in all public places.

The Swiss tourism industry said it expected a sharp drop in visitors from the Middle east as a result of the Ticino intiative.

In December of last year, the Léger Switzerland polling institute found that 60% of respondents to a nationwide poll would support the outlawing of Muslim religious garments, such as burkas and niqabs, in public spaces.

swissinfo with agencies

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