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Calmy-Rey tries to allay fears over minaret ban

Swiss voters' approval of a ban on new minarets is not a rejection of the Muslim community, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey told

The foreign minister, who said she was "shocked" and "disappointed", pledged Switzerland would intensify its dialogue with the Muslim community in Switzerland. Embassies in Muslim countries had also been instructed to try to explain the vote.

"This initiative is not the expression of the rejection of the Muslim community, which is well integrated in Switzerland and continues to pray at over 200 different places of worship," the foreign minister told journalists on Sunday.

Calmy-Rey argued that the initiative had been instrumentalized and the debate had been "polluted by confusion". The result of the vote was a reaction to fears of globalisation and the current economic crisis, she said.

"In this context it was easy for the campaigners to exploit people's fears," she said.

"This result doesn't alter Switzerland's foreign policy objectives. In the international community, Switzerland tries to build bridges between industrialised and developing countries, and between Muslim and non-Muslim countries," she said.

"Religious peace is an essential part of Switzerland's success, part of the Swiss multicultural model where different religions, languages and cultures can co-exist harmoniously. This means that the Swiss government is even more committed to ensuring dialogue between different religious communities."

The foreign minister said Swiss embassies and representatives in Muslim countries would also explain the Swiss direct democracy system and put the vote into context.


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