Politicians prefer moderate alternative to outright ‘burka ban’

Unveiled: hooligans would also be affected by the legislation. © Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Swiss parliamentarians have rejected a right-wing call for an outright ban on the wearing of face coverings, such as burkas, in public. 

This content was published on September 26, 2019 - 12:10

The text rejected on Thursday by the Senate is a people’s initiative aiming to completely ban face coverings – whether religious coverings like veils or more prosaic hoods sometimes favoured by hooligans. 

The proposal, which was handed in with the requisite 100,000 signatures in September 2017, was judged to be too extreme by politicians in Switzerlands’ smaller chamber of parliament, some of whom said that a ban would be discriminatory against Muslims and contravene the freedom of religion. 

Backers of the initiative – mainly right-wing politicians – claimed the move was necessary to combat “islamisation” and fundamentalism, and to safeguard public security. 

Softer alternative 

A strong majority of senators, meanwhile, preferred the government’s counter-proposal: a legal amendment that would oblige people to show their faces in specific cases like identity checks, transport checks, or visits to social security authorities, but not ban coverings altogether. 

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said that the issue of dealing with facial recognition was already best handled by individual regions, most of whom already have regulations to combat extremism or hooliganism. 

Two of the country’s 26 cantons, Ticino and St Gallen, have introduced burka bans at a local level; others have rejected similar proposals

The Senate’s decision on Thursday was a recommendation; unless the backers of the people’s initiative see the counter-proposal as acceptable, their idea will be put to Swiss voters in the coming years. 

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