Swiss voters approve minaret ban by 57 percent

To the great surprise of pollsters and the regret of the government, the Swiss on Sunday said yes to a ban on the construction of minarets. According to final results, 57.5 percent of voters and a majority of cantons backed the initiative. Turnout was high at around 55 percent. The result comes as a major surprise and a slap in the face of the government. Opinion polls ahead of the vote had predicted the ban would be rejected by 53 percent of the electorate.

The proposal on banning minaret construction was championed by rightwing and ultra-conservative groups. The government and most political parties as well as churches and the business community came out strongly against it.

“A majority of the Swiss people and the cantons have adopted the popular initiative against the construction of minarets. The Federal Council respects this decision”, a government statement said. “Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted. The four existing minarets will remain. It will also be possible to continue to construct mosques.”

The statement said freedom of belief would not be affected. “Muslims in Switzerland are able to practice their religion alone or in community with others, and live according to their beliefs just as before.”