Required signatures all collected and sent to Bern

Switzerland may be on its way to being yet another European nation to ban the application of facial coverings worn by conservative Muslim women. Activists of “Yes to a Mask Ban” group have collected in excess of 100,000 signatures needed to put this proposal to a national vote. The group said that the petition will be delivered to federal offices located in Bern in September. The process will initiate the vote to be held within 2020.

About two-thirds of the total Swiss population term themselves Christian. The country's Muslim population recently rose by five percent due to immigrants from the former Yugoslavia. The ban is already being applied in Ticino, an Italian speaking Swiss Canton. MP Walter Wobmann of Swiss People's Party or SVP and one of the principal supporters of the ban said his organization has gained the necessary signatures with two days to spare. So strong is the feeling against the ban in some Swiss citizens' minds that one person managed to collect a whopping 9,700 signatures all by his own efforts.

Switzerland is not the sole European country debating the burqa ban. The covering, along with niqabs and other similar face coverings has polarized voters across Europe. A few have vociferously argued against such clothing, saying that these textile pieces embody discrimination against women. They have called for its ban. Only France has banned the burqa. Many others oppose this ban. They put forward the opinion that such a ban intrudes without any provocation on religious freedom.

One of the people who oppose a burqa ban in Switzerland is Oender Guenes. He is the spokesperson for Federation of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland. The Federation has more than 200 mosques under its administrative umbrella. Guenes said, "You can probably count those living in Switzerland on maybe one or two hands. The rest are usually rich tourists from the Gulf."

If this burqa ban actually comes into effect, the Swiss parliament will decide on the penalties for such infringements. Ticino has already seen a violation of the forbidden practice. A minimum of two demonstrators who wore veils despite knowing that face coverings were banned paid about $260 in fines.

The new measure, which could be implemented throughout Switzerland, could forbid any protestor to conceal faces during demonstrations. The European Court of Human Rights in 2014 upheld the ban put in place by France. Germany's parliament in 2017 gave its backing to completely ban full face coverings for soldiers, civil servants, and judges. The issue continues to be under debate in Netherlands and Austria.

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