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Swiss nationalist groups force vote on minaret ban

[JURIST] Two Swiss nationalist parties gathered enough signatures on their initiative against the construction of minarets [initiative website, in French] to force a national referendum [Federal Council press release] on whether the country's constitution should be amended to ban the structures, the Swiss government announced Tuesday. Officials for the right-wing Swiss People's Party (UDC) and the Federal Democratic Union (UDF) [party websites, in German] introduced the initiative in May 2007 in an effort to amend Article 72 of the Federal Constitution [text, PDF] to include that "[t]he construction of minarets is prohibited." Supporters have said that the Islamic towers are not inherently religious and would not prevent the free exercise of religion, meaning that they are not protected for religious reasons under the constitution. They also have said that the towers are more accurately symbols of religious and political power and suggest a stronger deference to Islam than to the Swiss political and legal systems. More than 114,000 people signed the initiative, but the Federal Council said that it will continue to advise against adopting the initiative. The Guardian has more.

In June the UDC supported another referendum [question text, in German] that would have given municipalities control over the granting of Swiss passports without providing an appeal process for applicants. Voters rejected the initiative [JURIST report], but the UDC had urged the referendum to reduce the influence of outside cultures on Switzerland and ensure better-integrated immigrants.

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