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UN and Turkey slam minaret ban

The top United Nations human rights official has heavily criticised Switzerland's ban on the construction of minarets, arguing it is "clearly discriminatory".

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that Sunday's vote – 57.5 per cent of voters were in favour – was the product of "anti-foreigner scaremongering".

Voters adopted the ban and surprised many by defying the government and parliament, which had rejected the rightwing initiative as violating the Swiss constitution, freedom of religion and the country's tradition of tolerance.

Pillay added that the ban was "deeply divisive and a thoroughly unfortunate step for Switzerland to take" and risked putting the country on a collision course with its international human rights obligations.

In a related development, Turkey, which wants to become the first Muslim member of the European Union, said the Swiss ban on minarets violated basic human rights and freedoms.

Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the Swiss vote had caused disappointment and was unfortunate.

It called on Switzerland to correct the decision, adding that more than 100,000 Turks living in the country were worried.

Europe's main human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, has also criticised the ban, indicating that the vote could be overturned.

Supporters of the ban say the number of Muslims in Switzerland has grown sharply from 50,000 in 1980 to over 300,000, but it is still only about four per cent of the 7.5 million population.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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