To Ban The Niqab Or Not? Switzerland To Hold Controversial Referendum On 7th March

Polls already show that more than 60% of Swiss voters favor the burqa ban.

(File: Michael Buholzer/Reuters)

On the 7th of March, Switzerland will hold a referendum to decide whether to ban full facial coverings such as burqas and niqabs.

Polls show that more than 60% of Swiss voters favor the burqa ban.

The Swiss cantons of Ticino and St. Gallen have already banned full-face coverings in regional votes.

 A Swiss woman campaigning in 2013 against a referendum to ban niqabs in the Swiss canton of Ticino. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES)

Interestingly, the Swiss government has urged voters to reject the referendum, saying the move would hurt tourism.

“Only a few people in Switzerland wear a full facial covering,” the government said in a statement.

“A countrywide ban would undermine the sovereignty of the cantons, hurt tourism, and be unhelpful for certain groups of women,” it said.

The majority of women who wear full facial coverings are tourists and they only spend a brief time in the state, the statement added.

Under Switzerland’s political system of direct democracy, any proposal to alter the constitution goes to a popular vote if advocates raise more than 100,000 signatures.

(Getty Images)

Montreux and other destinations around Lake Geneva and Interlaken in central Switzerland traditionally attract some Muslim tourists, mainly from the Gulf Arab states.

Switzerland’s proposal also forbids coercing somebody to wear a facial covering based on their gender.

The grouping behind the scheme – the “Egerkinger Komitee”, which includes members of the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) – was also behind the move to ban minarets.

In 2009, the Swiss voters supported a proposal to ban new minarets’ construction, approved by nearly 60% of voters.

(Keystone / Peter Schneider)


The supporters of the 2009 proposal saw the minarets as foreign to Swiss traditions and values.

Muslims make up about 5% of Switzerland’s 8.6 million people, official statistics show.

The Swiss government has made a counterproposal to the facial covering ban that would be implemented if voters reject the initial proposal on the 7th of March.

This would require Muslim women wearing a facial covering to reveal their face if required for identification at public transport or administrative offices.

Tourists from the Arab Gulf make up a significant source of income for Switzerland. (Keystone)

Elsewhere, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Latvia, Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, the Republic of the Congo, Chad, Gabon, and Sri Lanka all have laws prohibiting religious face coverings.

Ironically, the vote will take place on the eve of International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, which strives for gender equality worldwide. Removing a woman’s right to wear a face veil is not equality.

What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments below.

  • if burqa is so important to muslim minority then they should leave kafar’s society and settle in some islamic country, stop being hypocrate, either embrace their society or come back

    • Can the same be said the other way round? Muslim countries implementing rules according to Islam and other non-Muslim minorities following it?

    • I do not understand if some person decide to live in another country why he has to embrace their norms explain it, yes you can not bra

      • I fully agree with you. Why do Western women have to cover themselves in a pakistani dress in our country?, why can’t they walk around in a short skirt on the streets of Pakistan ? Wasim Akram’s wife should wear a bikini on Clifton beach in karachi like she does at a beach in Melbourne. Why people want them to wear our dress ? They should wear their dress when they come here , pakistani women should wear their dress when they go to such western countries.

        • Keep in mind there is no law in Pakistan that foreigners should wear Pakistani dress, that is their choice.

    • Your argument is that 5% of the Swiss population who are are Muslims should leave and settle in an Islamic state, majority of whom are born and bred there because they are practice their religion . Why should they leave their home?
      Everyone has a right to live free and practice his religion that is a basic human principle.
      West`s real dilemma is that they feel threatened by Muslims, because Islam is the fastest growing religion and world’s second-largest religion, after Christianity. But this would change if the current demographic trends continue.
      They see niqab, minarets as a marketing tool of Muslims for most of their atheists and non practicing Christians populations.
      Believe me they wont stop here.
      And my fool fellows who talk about law of the land, just answer one question , why a law now?

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