Swiss govt urges voters to reject ban on Muslim religious sites

The Swiss government urged voters on Thursday to reject a proposed ban on new minarets,

Swiss govt urges voters to reject ban on Muslim religious sites

The Swiss government urged voters on Thursday to reject a proposed ban on new minarets, saying it would contravene religious freedom and human rights.

More than 310,000 of Switzerland's 7.5 million population are Muslims, making Islam the second biggest religion in the country after Christianity.

An opinion poll last week showed 51 percent of Swiss opposed a ban, while 35 percent were in favour.

It is not a suitable means to counter "religious extremism", rather it threatens to give a boost to "religious fanatics", Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told a news conference webcast from Berne.

Switzerland will hold a referendum on Nov. 29 on preventing the construction of new minarets after a group of politicians from the far right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) and Federal Democratic Union gathered enough signatures last year to force a vote.

Some local governments have banned a poster in favour of the ban which shows the Swiss flag, a white cross on a red background, covered in missile-like minarets and a woman wearing a black chador and veil associated with strict Islam.

Widmer-Schlumpf noted that church towers were not mentioned in the Bible yet had religious significance and a ban affecting only minarets would discriminate against Muslims.

Thomas Wipf, head of the Swiss Council of Religions, said Swiss identity was associated with cultural and religious diversity.

"Such questions should be discussed openly but the referendum initiative is counterproductive as it hinders dialogue rather than promoting it," he told the news conference.

The right-wing SVP, which took 29 percent of the vote in the last election to make it the country's biggest party, has been accused of racism for anti-immigration campaigns, including a poster showing white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag.

"Racist"

Switzerland's Commission Against Racism said Wednesday that an anti-minaret poster campaign by a far-right party was racist, targeting the country's Muslim minority following a ban on the poster in several cities which deemed it to be racially prejudiced against Muslims, local media reported Tuesday.

The federal commission issued a damning commentary on the posters and the political party's repeated use of inflammatory images and text, saying that they are a danger to public peace and encourage prejudice and, in general, against Islam.

'The commission believes that this could threaten social cohesion and public peace,' the government commission said in a statement.

'This is equivalent to defamation of Switzerland's peaceful Muslim population,' added the commission.


Reuters

Last Mod: 16 Ekim 2009, 15:57
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