Swiss Government Opposes Minaret Ban

The government reiterated on Wednesday, August 27, opposition to a campaign by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) for a referendum on banning minarets in the central European country, branding it unconstitutional and discriminatory. “The popular initiative against the construction of minarets has been submitted in accordance with the applicable regulations but infringes guaranteed international human rights and contradicts the core values of the Swiss Federal Constitution,” it said in a statement cited by Reuters. The SVP, who is spearheading the campaign, has amassed 113,540 signatures, enough to force a nationwide vote on the minarets ban. Under Swiss rules, the electorate can request a popular vote if it manages to collect 100,000 signatures within 18 months from eligible voters for the initiative. The minaret proposal has to be discussed by parliament before being put to a popular vote and the process could take several years.

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Switzerland: Swiss Gov’t Opposes Minaret Ban

The government reiterated on Wednesday, August 27, opposition to a campaign by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) for a referendum on banning minarets in the central European country, branding it unconstitutional and discriminatory. “The popular initiative against the construction of minarets has been submitted in accordance with the applicable regulations but infringes guaranteed international human rights and contradicts the core values of the Swiss Federal Constitution,” it said in a statement cited by Reuters. The SVP, who is spearheading the campaign, has amassed 113,540 signatures, enough to force a nationwide vote on the minarets ban. Under Swiss rules, the electorate can request a popular vote if it manages to collect 100,000 signatures within 18 months from eligible voters for the initiative. The minaret proposal has to be discussed by parliament before being put to a popular vote and the process could take several years. The government suggested that parliament now recommend a “no” vote since it would contravene both European and UN human rights conventions.

Swiss reject SVP citizenship plan

In a referendum Swiss voters have voted by 64 percent to reject a proposal by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) that would have made it even harder for resident foreigners to gain citizenship. Only one of Switzerland’s 26 cantons backed the plan. At present, naturalisation is decided by a commission, usually at regional level. The far-right had wanted to overturn a supreme court ruling so that applications could be decided by popular vote among local communities. More than a fifth of Switzerland’s 7.5 million residents are of foreign origin. To gain citizenship candidates must have lived in the alpine state for 12 years and pass tests on Swiss culture and language. The SVP’s campaign was challenged by Switzerland’s left parties, trade unions and Greens who described it as racist.

Switzerland: Swiss Rightwingers challenge minarets as “Islamist” threat

Right-wing politicians from Switzerland’s largest political party on Thursday launched a campaign for a referendum to ban the construction of minarets on mosques, claiming they symbolized an Islamist bid for power. The group, including more than half of the Swiss People’s Party’s (SVP) parliamentarians, said in a statement that a ban would help stop “attempts by Islamist circles to impose a legal system based on the sharia in Switzerland.” Some of the politicians said they did not oppose mosques or Muslims’ right to worship. The Swiss constitution guarantees religious freedoms and the legality of the initiative was questioned by one former judge. Parliamentarian Oskar Freysinger branded minarets “lighthouses of jihad” while his colleague Ulrich Schlueer claimed that they were “Islamist buildings with an imperialist connotation.” Schlueer said minarets were not a religious symbol but a sign of a “political-religious bid for power.” To trigger a national referendum, campaigners must collect 100,000 signatures. They hope to introduce a constitutional amendment to the article that upholds peace between members of religious communities-explicitly forbidding the construction of minarets. Swiss Roman Catholic bishops dealing with relations with Muslims said in a statement that they opposed the campaign for a blanket ban on minarets. Supporters of the anti-minaret intitiative include 36 of the SVP’s 63 parliamentarians and two from a small hard right party. The campaign will also coincide with general elections in October. The populist SVP surged to the largest single share of the vote in the 2003 elections, 26 percent, after a campaign focused on curbing immigration. There are about 311,000 Muslims among the 7.5 million strong Swiss population, according to official statistics. Most of them are originally from the Balkans.