Switzerland moves a step closer to voting on nationwide burqa ban

Switzerland moves a step closer to voting on nationwide burqa ban
A woman wearing a burqa in Vevey. Photo: erix3005/Depositphotos
The Swiss may get the chance to vote on the introduction of a nationwide ban on the burqa after campaigners from the so-called Egerkingen committee succeeded in gathering the required number of signatures to push the issue to a referendum.
In March 2016 the committee launched a popular initiative to ban the burqa and other full-face coverings and had until this month to gather the 100,000 signatures required under the Swiss system of direct democracy to push it to a public vote.
On Wednesday Swiss People’s Party (SVP) MP Walter Wobmann, a leading member of the committee and a long-time advocate of a burqa ban, announced they had succeeded two days before the deadline.
Just over a week ago the campaign only had 82,000 signatures, according to the website of the committee, which launched a last-ditch appeal for more signatures.
Speaking to the Tribune de Genève on Wednesday, Wobmann conceded that it was a close-run thing.
“It was tight. We are a small committee… we were lacking people to help us gather the signatures,” he told the paper.
According to the Luzerner Zeitung the campaign was aided by a 76-year-old man from Willisau in the canton of Lucerne who managed to gather 9,700 signatures all by himself.
The committee’s eventual success means the initiative can now be lodged with the Swiss federal government. If all is found to be in order, it will go to a public vote.
The issue has been on the political table in Switzerland since the canton of Ticino voted in favour of a ban in a cantonal vote in 2013. The ban – which forbids the wearing of the Islamic face veil (niqab), full-length burqa and other full face coverings in public places – came into force in July 2016, with those who flout it liable for fines of up to 10,000 francs.
But since then only a few fines have been issued, including one for a Swiss woman who flouted the ban in deliberate protest.
Enthusiasm for a ban elsewhere in the country has been lukewarm.
And in March the Swiss senate quashed a draft bill on the subject – also lodged by Wobmann – after it was narrowly approved by the lower house.
In rejecting it, senators said there were so few people wearing burqas in Switzerland that there was no need to legislate for a problem that does not exist.
Speaking to the Tribune on Wednesday, Wobmann, who led the successful campaign against the building of minarets in Switzerland and in 2015 called for certain Muslim refugees to be banned from entering the country, said:  “Even if there are only a few cases today, there will be more in the future, that’s certain. It’s better to act too early than too late. We must send a strong signal against this symbol of oppression and radicalism.”
If the ban does make it to a public vote, it may be successful. A 2016 survey found that 70 percent of people were in favour of a nationwide ban.
Wobmann told the paper he was “convinced it will be accepted”.

10 replies

  1. Silly, as a Swiss Accountant I feel it absolutely silly to chase away the Gulf Arab and Saudi Tourists, the highest spending tourist group of all.

  2. Making money should not be a reason for keeping the tradition of the burqa alive. It is totally illogical to keep a woman shrouded, nothing to do with modesty, solely about male control, and not acceptable in a modern world. Many women say God directs that they should cover up, but of course that is not the case, it is a misguided belief. It is an old tradition preceding Islam, and it is cultural, not a religious law. Unfortunately we now see more Muslim women shrouded, and it is causing much discomfort outside the Islamic world. Time for change!

    • Renate: you leave something out: the free will of the ladies. I have lived in the Arab world for more than a decade and met a few burka ladies. One of my land lady was a Medical Doctor in a Burka, and a very strong personality. I can say that the vast majority of ladies are wearing the burka at their own free will, just like the vast majority of hijab wearing ladies all over the world. Yes, I would also be against ‘force’ and yes, the burka is more cultural than Islamic (as we can judge when we notice that burkas are not permitted during haj even). Male control? I have two hijab wearing ladies and both boss me around…

  3. The fact that the burka has become a tradition in many Muslim countries does not change the fact that it was originally imposed on women by men, who controlled most everything. Even God is regarded as a man in the Abrahamic religions. Some extreme Orthodox Jews cover in much the same way as their Arab cousins, so we can see the origins of the mode of dress, which hasn’t changed in thousands of years. But humans don’t live in a bubble, the world is constantly changing, not necessarily always for the better, but that is the reality. Nowhere is it mandated that women the world over should dress in Arabic clothes, but most societies like their women to dress modestly, but even that is open to interpretation. Once upon a time all European women wore some sort of head dress and long gowns, but they have largely disappeared, even many nuns now dress in regular clothes, that does not make them any less dedicated to their cause.

    Many Muslim countries had adopted Western clothing over more recent years, but are now regressing. I have no problem with women (and men) dressing in their national outfits in Muslim countries, minus the burka, in fact I think they can look quite charming. When in Egypt and India I purchased national clothing, which I have worn for special occasions, and would no doubt adopt if I lived in those countries, but I would not want them to become standard here. And definitely no burka!

    I don’t know where you live, Rafiq, but I’m pleased to learn that your women folk have the freedom to be themselves, of course, women should have a voice, and yours obviously have. I myself live in London, born in Germany, and have been married to a Pakistani for many years.

    Have a good day!

  4. I was inclined to agree with you, Somi Tempo, until you mentioned about God condemning and punishing Muslims with various kinds of disasters, etc. I really would not have expected you to believe in that, with your otherwise fairly progressive comments.

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