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Burka Banned in Swiss Public Spaces

A Recent News Article with Some Commentary:

Swiss voters approved a ban on full facial coverings including niqab (veil for the face, except the eyes) and burqa in nearly all public places. This passed referendum means facial covering will be banned in public spaces, in public offices, in shops and restaurants, and include city streets and the countryside.

Exceptions to this ban include places of worship and other sacred sites. A face covering may be allowed for health and security reasons, weather-related issues, and in situations where it’s considered a “local custom” to do so (think carnivals and special holidays). Tourists will also be affected by the ban. Would it be snarky to say that virtually no future visitors to Switzerland will be dissuaded to visit simply because of the “burqa ban?” I doubt it. And the Swiss know that too, tourist is an important part of Switzerland’s economy and tourist industry officials shouldn't be about this new referendum.

A Niqab.

The Swiss People’s Party is one right-wing group that supports this ban. A proposal that they helped compose doesn’t mention Islam specifically, but some more centrists and left-wing individuals think the ban is discriminatory. The Swiss Council of Religions, which represents all major religious regions of Switzerland, criticized the proposal and stressed that religious freedom should allow certain religious dress codes.

According to a new book by Andreas Tunger-Zanetti, a researcher who has studied Islam in Switzerland for nearly 15 years said, “Virtually nobody wears a burqa in Switzerland and maybe 30 or so women wear a niqab.” She’s essentially saying the approved referendum was pointless, if only 30 or so women may be impacted.” If you do some math for context, the population of Switzerland is 8,654,622, where according to the author, only 30 or so women wear a niqab. To get to only 1% of the population (86,546) wearing a niqab, the current amount of 30 would have to be multiplied by 2,884 times to get to that amount. In other words, this is a silly and unnecessary referendum to be doing in the current political climate.

Black Burka Worn.

According to Amnesty International, the burqa and niqab ban is considered “anti-Muslim.” Could it just mean the Swiss want to maintain a certain dress protocol established by the majority -- a protocol of dress that has been around all the Swiss Cantons for centuries? An important responsibility of many Swiss elders is to ensure younger and more impressionable citizens learn the ‘Swiss Way’ regarding the culture, norms, and standards. The majority of Swiss are convinced that formal/informal rules help to maintain a well-functioning country.

If the Swiss had banned any worshiping in mosques or individual homes, one could say it’s anti-Muslim. If the Swiss banned plain, black long dresses, one could say it’s anti-Muslim. But a burqa and niqab, this becomes an entirely different question.

For safety and security concerns, don't people in public need to show their faces? I'll sound cheesy but it's about a human being (stranger) seeing another human walking towards each other in a city park. They may not speak to each other, but on some levels, they have connected somehow. I disarm by showing my face in public and encourage others to do so. Public spaces may help you interact with strangers but public I believe it means, study the language, learn all important Swiss customs and norms. At a bare minimum, show your face, I hate to sound robotic but seeing some other face is the epitome of humanity. Isn't this a critical part of our humanity, while in public spaces, should not be covered up and hidden from others?

Indeed, I have strong opinions about assimilation, especially from immigrants or newcomers to our country. When you're no longer in your home country, you have plenty of work to do....besides actual work and school and other activities.

Learn the language as quickly as possible, even if you begin with the basics, it will be appreciated by your new country. Watch how citizens behave in city streets, or department stores. If you follow the flow in public, that makes a big difference toward assimilation. And try not to compare how some things are better back home mentality, that's not a winning strategy.

The Human Rights Committee from the UN claims that this ban might confine Muslim women to their homes. I don’t know if this Committee did its homework with this issue, it appears a very, very slight amount is impacted, like 30. If this is true, is the Human Rights Committee suggesting that only 30 women might stay home because of this ban?

With this new ban, if there are a few Muslim women who are fearful to be seen in public without a face covering, those more moderate Muslim women need to help socialize those women who fear the ban. More assimilated Muslim women can teach new arrivals on ways to assimilate here in Switzerland and yet, remain devout and practicing Muslim. The government can help to try to educate the reasons behind the ban, but ultimately, businesses or individuals can make the most difference with this cultural assimilation.

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