ZURICH – The Swiss government opposed on June 27 a grassroots campaign for a ban on facial coverings in public that will prompt a binding referendum, The Express Tribune reported.
The Swiss cabinet said individual cantons should decide on the matter, which nevertheless will go to a nationwide vote under Switzerland’s federal system of direct democracy.
The Swiss government suggested instead adopting laws that would prevent people from covering their faces when dealing with officials and punish anyone who force women to conceal their faces with up to three years in jail.
“The government is aware that facial coverings can lead to problems. With its proposals it suggests targeted and specific legal measures in areas in which it has authority,” the cabinet announced after a meeting.
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“The initiative would make it impossible to take into account the individual cantons’ differing sensitivities, in particular removing their ability to determine for themselves how they wish to treat tourists from Arab states who wear facial coverings,” it added.
The niqab ban will come to a binding referendum after activists in 2017 collected the more than 100,000 signatures required to put the proposal to a national vote.
The group, called “Yes to a Mask Ban”, includes some Islamophobic leaders who also spearheaded the 2009 Swiss ban on constructing new mosque minarets.
Two-thirds of Switzerland’s 8.5 million residents identify as Christians. But its Muslim population has risen to 5%, largely because of Balkans Muslim immigrants.