Photo by [BBC News]
Last week, the bill to ban face coverings was sent to the Swiss parliament for approval. It follows last year’s referendum, which saw more than 50% of Swiss citizens voting in favour of the bill.
Suppose the Swiss parliament passes the draft law, anyone wearing face coverings in Switzerland could face a fine of £900, equating to approximately R18 000.
The initiative to ban facial covering, also known as the burqa ban, was put forth by the Egerkingen Komitee, which has links to the right-wing Swiss People’s Party.
The Islamophobic right-wing party were behind the controversial ban that prohibited Muslims from constructing mosques with minarets.
Al-Jazeera reported, “The bill does not name burqas or niqabs, but prohibits people from concealing their faces in public spaces like public transportation, restaurants or walking in the street, specifying that the eyes, nose and mouth must be visible.” However, the initiative does not prohibit Muslim women from wearing a Hijab to cover their hair.
Swiss Laws Targeting Muslims
Maimouna Ahmed, a member of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland, stated the ban targets Muslims as there is no logical reason to implement it. “This ban in itself is very much ridiculous,” she said. “Because there are not even 100 women [who] wear the niqab in Switzerland.”
Ahmed claims the integration of Muslims into Swiss society has come to the dismay of politicians from the right-wing party. As such, they have drafted social security and public safety laws that primarily impact Muslims.
“We are the only religious group that is being targeted, which is why this is of utmost importance to us. We are going to deal with that. We dealt with the minaret ban, we dealt with the niqab ban, and if there is going to be a hijab ban, we are going to deal with it as well.”
However, the ICC of Switzerland has been at the forefront of addressing small and large issues affecting Muslims.
Muslims in Switzerland
Ahmed said she was not surprised by the proposed ban and outcome of the referendum but what struck her was the fact that there was no opposition to it by the Muslim community.
The Muslim community in Switzerland is relatively free to practise their religion. However, they are somewhat divided based on their political knowledge. Some are unaware of the laws that are being passed prohibiting Muslim women from dressing per their religious creed.
The Muslim council had launched campaigns in various regions of Switzerland to bring awareness to issues they are facing in the country, with the hope of changing their mindsets, which is a task in itself for the ICC of Switzerland.
However, she mentions multiple reasons why no one disapproves of it. They are frightened, she said. There is the fear of being marginalised, insulted and dehumanised by Swiss society for their religious stances.
“The challenge with regards to the ban now is not the strength of a right-wing party. I think the problem is our weakness as a Muslim Community to counteract. For instance, we fought it, we fought against this ban, and we exhausted all democratic means we had at our disposal. Some Muslims have also actively participated, but the broad masses have let it wash over them, and this is the sad part. This is what we’re dealing with currently.”