Swiss Parliament Approves Burqa Ban, Imposes Steep Fine

 Via Middle East Eye,

Switzerland's parliament has approved a ban on face coverings in legislation thought to be targeting Muslim women wearing burqas and niqabs. 

The country's lower parliamentary chamber voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill on Wednesday, which was passed with 151 votes in favor and 29 against. The upper chamber had previously approved the ban, which was strongly supported by the right-wing Swiss People's Party.

Swiss Parliament Approves Burqa Ban, Imposes Steep Fine
Image source: EUobserver

It prohibits the covering of the nose, mouth and eyes in public places, as well as private buildings that can be accessed by the public

The ban will now become federal law, and those who violate it will be fined 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,114)

Two years ago, Switzerland narrowly voted in a referendum to endorse a public ban on niqabs, burqas, ski masks and bandanas worn by protesters. Over 51 percent voted in favour, while nearly 49 percent voted against it. 

The new law has a number of exceptions, including for indigenous customs, religious services, theatrical performances and face coverings for health and climate reasons

It now brings Switzerland in line with several other European countries that have banned the burqa in some form, including France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands. 

In 2009, in another policy focused on the Muslim community, Switzerland prohibited the construction of new mosque minarets, the towers traditionally built to project calls to prayer, after a campaign led by right-wing parties.

A study in 2021 by the University of Lucerne put the number of women in Switzerland who wore a niqab at between 21 and 37 and found no evidence at all of any women wearing the burqa.

Muslims make up around five percent of the Swiss population of 8.6 million, or about 390,000 people, most of whom have their roots in Turkey, Bosnia and Kosovo. 

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