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Dossier on the minaret controversy in Switzerland

Bern, October 16, 2009 – On November 29 the Swiss will decide on whether to ban the construction of minarets. As the debate heats up, explores the issues behind the vote.'s English dossier explains the controversy and offers a wealth of background information.

Switzerland's system of direct democracy enables any citizen or pressure group to demand a change in the constitution if they can collect 100,000 signatures within 18 months.

In July 2008 the rightwing Swiss People's Party handed in an initiative, "Against the Construction of Minarets", to the government with 113,540 valid signatures. The text is just one sentence long: "The construction of minarets is prohibited." The Swiss population will decide on November 29 whether this sentence is added to the constitution.

Are soaring towers on mosques a threat to Swiss culture or a sign of tolerance and democracy?

Supporters see minarets not as religious but political symbols and as a sign of what they term the "Islamicisation" of Switzerland. Opponents see the ban as infringing human rights and harmful to Switzerland's image. A ban on minaret construction would threaten the peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims in the country, believes Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. The Swiss government and parliament are recommending voters reject the initiative.

How did the initiative come about? What is its intention? What effect will it have? What do Muslims but also Swiss think of the initiative? These and other questions are examined in the dossier. It contains background information, analysis and features, as well as interviews with politicians and religious representatives.

The information is provided in multimedia form, with text supplemented by videos and galleries. The Minaret Debate swissinfo dossier is available in English.

Follow this link to the swissinfo dossier: link is an enterprise of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, SRG SSR idée suisse. It is tasked with informing Swiss living abroad about events in their homeland, as well as increasing awareness of Switzerland abroad. swissinfo's news and information platform - - is in nine languages.

swissinfo journalists are available to answer questions and give interviews on this issue. If you are interested in an interview, please contact Katrin Schmitter.

Katrin Schmitter, Public Relations
Tel: +41 31 350 95 50

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