Swiss burqa ban: what will it achieve?

Swiss citizens voted by a slim majority for a ban on face coverings on Sunday. In future, Muslim women will not be allowed to wear burqas or niqabs in public. Protesters and hooligans who hide their faces will also face fines. Such bans apply in several European countries. Europe's press is at odds over the decision.

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A clear signal against a totalitarian ideology

The ban is justified because it is aimed against Islamism, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“The so-called burqa initiative is merely symbolic politics, said its opponents - and it is. It is aimed against the symbol of an inhuman, totalitarian ideology. ... The Yes vote on banning the facial covering is not about Islam, but about Islamism. To believe that political Islam is barely manifested in Switzerland is naive. Here, too, mosques are financed with money from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey. Here, too, there are parallel societies. The 'burqa initiative' does not change this. But it does give politicians a mandate to take a closer look.”

Der Spiegel (DE) /

A triumph for ignorance

The last people the ban helps are women, Der Spiegel criticises:

“In France, similar bans have resulted in the affected groups becoming further isolated and radicalised. Anyone who actually wants to advance the cause of immigrant women and help the oppressed should start elsewhere. Compulsory German courses can help. Programmes that educate people about political and social rights, inform about training possibilities, offer legal support and create community experiences are also successful. ... Those who won in Switzerland on Sunday don't want to talk to Muslims, but about them. Their narrow victory is a triumph for ignorance.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

This is what fear of the populists leads to

The vote is the result of a major failure on the part of political leaders, The Irish Times concludes:

“The veil ban issue unites a broad coalition, from right-wing nationalists and Islamophobes to the militant secularist left. ... Some feminists are also enlisted to the cause by claims, disputed by Muslim women, that the obligation to wear the veil is a tool in the oppression of women. ... That such an unholy alliance can win a majority in a predominantly liberal society is a disappointing reflection on the failure again of political leaders, anxious not to be outflanked by the populist right, robustly to defend the essential truth of pluralism, that it requires us to embrace cultural difference, not to force others into our square boxes.”

Le Temps (CH) /

A democratic debate par excellence

Le Temps, on the other hand, praises the process that led to the ban:

“Whatever you think of the initiative, the fact that the campaign, unlike the 2009 minaret debate [which ended with a ban on building minarets], has remained dignified and respectful despite fears that it might get out of hand is to be welcomed. Even better, a number of leading figures from the Muslim community who were silent the last time around participated in the campaign, both for and against the initiative. They showed that they were ready to speak their minds and integrate. More than the result, which only affects about 30 people, this is the most important lesson to be learned from this campaign.”