Thousands demand headscarf ban in Valais

Two young women studying in Zurich Keystone

With an eye on Muslim hijab, Swiss People’s Party members in canton Valais have collected more than 4,000 signatures calling for a ban on headgear in public schools – despite a recent federal court decision rejecting a similar ban in another part of the country.

This content was published on February 22, 2016 - 20:54 and agencies

The initiative committee, led by the Valais branch of the conservative right People’s Party, submitted 4,385 certified signatures supporting the popular initiative on Monday – about 10% more than required.

Now it’s up to canton Valais to either amend the current law or to draw up a new one; if that doesn’t happen within three years, then voters will decide on the matter via a referendum.

Parliamentarian Jean-Luc Addor, co-head of the initiative committee, says that while headscarves don’t currently pose a problem in canton Valais, the situation could change. He considers headscarves a sign of the subjugation of women.

A group called V.I.V.E.External link has already formed to fight the proposed ban with a manifesto decrying the “spread of Islamophobia”.

In December 2015, the Federal Court ruled that the local authorities of St Margrethen in eastern Switzerland could not ban hijab – arguing that wearing a headscarf was not an obstacle to effective teaching or learning.

With burkas in mind, voters in canton Ticino banned clothing that covers the face in 2013. There have also been attempts (some ongoing) to bring in so-called burka bans in cantons Aargau, Valais and Zurich.

In addition, a group of rightwing politicians is currently trying to bring about a nationwide headgear ban in Switzerland.

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