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Minarets at the sharp end of Swiss attack

The shocking outcome of Switzerland’s referendum to ban the building of minarets has dominated much of UK media today. As the Guardian points out, this result makes Switzerland the first country in Europe to attempt to curb the religious practices of Muslims by this ban.  

Of those who turned out to vote, 57% were in support of banning any more minarets being built across the country, supporting the far-right’s anti-immigration party – SVP’s call that they demonstrate a "political-religious claim to power".

According to the Times, one Swiss diplomat has declared the result of the vote to be ‘another blow to the world’s view of Switzerland’, and the executive director of Swatch has echoed this fear, warning that the poster propaganda of the far-right anti-immigrant party – SVP – has damaged Switzerland in the eyes of the world.
Pardon me, but aren’t there substantially deeper issues to be concerned about by this disgusting result rather than simply Switzerland’s PR?

This vote has blatantly violated the basic right of freedom of religion and as Tariq Ramadan – himself a Swiss citizen – has pointed out there may well be a ‘narrow-minded lack of trust’ in Muslims across Switzerland.

France appears to be the first European country to have condemned the result, saying that it should religious intolerance and the decision should be reversed. Amnesty has also sharply criticised this shock result and we expect that it will be overturned by the Supreme Court in Switzerland or the European Court of Human Rights.

It is reassuring that rule of law and the supremacy of human rights may be able to rectify this situation but the fact remains that this popular decision taken by the Swiss people sends a deeply concerning message across Europe. This apparent lack of tolerance towards Muslims and Islam in Switzerland must be addressed. I certainly hope that Swiss authorities set out to actively curb this apparent religious intolerance sooner rather than later – and not just for reasons of public relations.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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