Minaret ban rebuffed by the Senate

A proposal by rightwing politicians to ban new minarets in Switzerland has been overwhelmingly dismissed in parliament.

This content was published on June 5, 2009 minutes

The Senate on Friday decided 36-3 to recommend rejection of the controversial initiative that will come to a nationwide vote at a later date.

Most speakers pointed out that the proposal went against international law and constitutional principles. They also said it was damaging for Switzerland's international reputation and its trade relations with Muslim countries.

"It is appalling to have a discussion in Switzerland about a minaret ban for ideological motives. Certain values are simply not negotiable," said Radical Party Senator Dick Marty.

However, a People's Party senator, Maximilian Reimann, said he would vote for the minaret ban to protest "discrimination of the Christian religion in Muslim countries".

A large part of the debate focused on a proposal to declare the initiative invalid because it infringes on basic human rights.

The Senate decided with a margin of eight votes to put the proposal to a nationwide vote.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said she was convinced voters would reject the initiative and she called on campaigners to refrain from unfair debates.

"It will be our task as politicians to lead hard and no doubt also not always pleasant debates and show the citizens what the consequences of the approval of a ban would be," Widmer-Schlumpf said.

The other parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives, had rebuffed the initiative with a 129-50 vote during in a highly emotional debate in March.

Members of the Swiss People's Party and an ultraconservative religious party handed in 113,000 votes collected among citizens for a nationwide ballot.

Urs Geiser,

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