Swiss lawmakers have voted against a ban on the Muslim women burqa (face veil), putting an end to plans made by far right parties several years ago. “Today in Switzerland, wearing this type of clothing for religious reasons doesn’t pose any problems in daily life and is a rare practice in the Swiss Muslim community,” centre-right Radical Party parliamentarian Hugues Hiltpold said. Following a March Senate vote with the same result, the lower house of the Swiss parliament rejected the motion pushed by the canton of Aargau in a vote of 93 to 87.
The burqa ban proposal was first made by far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) under the title “Masks Off”.It proposed a ban on wearing of face-veils, which is also called Niqab, on public transport. The bill also allowed authorities to “ban or restrict access to public buildings to such individuals in order to guarantee the security of other users.” Far right lawmakers had argued that the ban was necessary for public safety. But opponents said the proposal was excessive because so few women wear burqas in Switzerland.
The wearing of face-veil has been the focus of growing debate in the West in recent years.While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil. Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the veil or burka, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.
Speaking for the majority, Hiltpold said banning the burqa would be excessive and would encourage tourists from Muslim countries to have negative opinions of the country. Affecting the country’s image abroad, he added that a ban on Muslim face veil would have bad effect on the countries Muslim minority. “Banning the niqab or the burka in Switzerland would have adverse consequences for Swiss Muslims.”
The proposed ban on burqa is not the first move by far right politicians against the country’s Muslim minority.
In 2009, the SVP has championed a ban on the building of mosque minarets in the European country.
According to the CIA Factbook, Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims, representing 5 percent of the country’s nearly eight million people.