Switzerland has voted to introduce a ‘burqa ban’ to outlaw face-coverings in public

A campaign poster, in favour of the 'burqa ban' initiative reading in German: 'Stop extremism!' is seen in Biberen near Bern on March 7, 2021 as Switzerland voted on whether to ban full facial coverings in public places.
A campaign poster, in favour of the ‘burqa ban’ initiative reading in German: ‘Stop extremism!’ is seen in Biberen near Bern on March 7, 2021 as Switzerland voted on whether to ban full facial coverings in public places. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images
  • Switzerland is introducing a ‘burqa ban’ to outlaw face-coverings in public.
  • The measure was backed narrowly in a referendum held on Sunday.
  • The Central Council of Muslims in Switzerland said the vote was a “dark day” for Muslims.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Switzerland has voted in a referendum to approve a “burqa ban” which will make it illegal to wear face-coverings in public places, despite almost no Muslim women in the country wearing one.

The referendum was approved by 51.2% to 48.8% on Sunday, according to poll tracker Europe Elects.

-Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) March 7, 2021

While the referendum did not explicitly state that the move was an anti-Islam measure, the referendum proposal was widely referred to in Switzerland as the “burqa ban,” the Financial Times reported.

The burqa is a whole-body garment which covers the whole face worn in public by women in some Muslim-majority countries. The ban would also apply to a face veil, or niqab.

The Central Council of Muslims in Switzerland said it was a “dark day” for Swiss Muslims.

“Today’s decision opens old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality, and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority,” it said, per Reuters.

The referendum was proposed by the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party, which campaigned strongly in favor of approving the referendum.

Under Switzerland’s model of “direct democracy,” the country holds several referendums every year which allows citizens to approve or reject various ideas for legislation.

The Swiss People’s Party had previously lobbied successfully in 2009 for a ban on the construction of minarets, the towers which are attached to mosques.

Campaign posters were also used during the referendum reading “Stop Extremism” which were accompanied by a graphic of a woman wearing a niqab.

About 5% of Switzerland’s 8.6 million population are Muslim, the BBC reported, most of whom originate from Turkey, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

Almost no-one in Switzerland wears a face-veil, according to a study carried out at the Center for Religious Research (ZRF), which found that around twenty to thirty women regularly wear face coverings. The research was cited by the BBC.

Switzerland’s move to ban facial coverings comes years after several other European countries introduced similar measures.

France became the first European country to impose a ban in 2011, followed by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands.