A controversial anti-Muslim advert, used in the run-up to a national vote on easing citizenship restrictions last year, was not racist, say Zurich justice authorities.
Public Prosecutor Hans Maurer said that creating a climate of fear was not legally speaking an offence and threw out a complaint against the advertisement.
The advert, which appeared in several Swiss newspapers last September, featured a graphic claiming to show that Muslim birth rates were soaring in Switzerland.
It alleged that Muslims would soon be a majority in Switzerland thanks to automatic naturalisations. It went on to suggest that the number of Muslims in Switzerland was doubling every ten years, and that they would make up 72 per cent of the population by 2040.
The advert was published by the "Committee against Mass Naturalisations", which was linked to Ulrich Schlüer, a rightwing Swiss People’s Party parliamentarian.
It appeared just a few weeks before a nationwide vote on easing restrictions on Swiss citizenship for second- and third- generation foreigners. Voters turned down the proposal.
Both the Muslim community in Switzerland and the Federal Commission against Racism condemned the advert.
Confirming newspaper reports, Maurer said on Thursday that he had received 17 complaints against the advert.
But he said that after examining the matter he had concluded that "it was not enough for an indictment".
Maurer said that, in his legal opinion, the advert did not incite hatred or discrimination against Muslims, nor did it systematically denigrate members of that religion.
It was principally aimed against the citizenship question rather than Muslims, he said.
The prosecutor added that the advert certainly played on fears over terrorism and fundamentalism, but it wasn’t up to the justice authorities to judge the style and truth of a vote campaign. Creating a climate of fear was not punishable, he explained.
The advert has also run into trouble for quoting the Federal Statistics Office as its source for the figures. The office had previously said that the statistics used in the advert were "absurd" and a court in Vaud last year ordered that the office should not be sourced in the publication.
swissinfo with agencies
According to the Swiss Federal Statistics Office:
11% of Swiss have no religious affiliation.
42% are Catholic.
35.2% are Protestant.
4.3% are Muslim.
1.8% are Orthodox.
0.2% are Jews.
5.5% are other religions
On September 26, 2004 the vote on easing citizenship restrictions for second generation foreigners was rejected by 56.8%.
The vote on the same matter for third generation foreigners was thrown out by 51.6%.