[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Tuesday condemned [press release] Switzerland's ban on building minarets [JURIST report], a type of tower associated with Islamic mosques. The ban, which was approved Sunday with 57.5 percent of the vote and the majority of Swiss cantons, was put forth by conservative political groups and opposed by churches, the government, and business groups. Pillay said that the ban was religious discrimination:
Some of the politicians who proposed this motion argued that it wasn't targeting Islam or Muslims. Others claimed that banning minarets would improve integration. These are extraordinary claims when the symbol of one religion is targeted. ...The ban has angered Muslims around the world, and Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bagis [official website] has suggested that Muslims with their money in Swiss bank accounts move it to Turkey [AFP report].
Indeed, a ban on minarets amounts to an undue restriction of the freedom to manifest one's religion and constitutes a clear discrimination against members of the Muslim community in Switzerland.
Last year, the Swiss government announced [JURIST report] that Swiss nationalist parties had gathered enough signatures on their initiative against the construction of minarets [initiative website, in French] to force a national referendum on whether the country's constitution should be amended to ban the structures. The initiative was originally sponsored by the anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party (SVP) [party website].