A public referendum in Switzerland Sunday came out in favor of banning face coverings in public. Swiss voters voted in two other referendums at the ballot box, voting against the introduction of electronic identification services and voting in favor of a free trade agreement with Indonesia.
In all, 1,427,626 people, 51.2 percent of voters, voted for nationwide the face covering ban in the referendum. The result is devastating for the Muslim community in Switzerland, and Muslim tourists to the country, given that many Muslim women choose to wear a burqa or niqab in public for religious regions.
The referendum was initiated by the right-wing political party Swiss People’s Party, who spearheaded a campaign in favor of the “Yes” vote in the referendum. The campaign’s spokesperson Jean-Luc Addor told AFP that the face covering ban is “a question of [civilization]. Free men and women present themselves with uncovered faces. It is an extreme form of Islam.”
Addor’s comments are inconsistent with those by practicing Muslim women for whom the choice to wear a face covering such as a hijab or burqa is “a complex form of personal, cultural, religious and political symbolism.”
The face covering ban has been heavily criticized for oppressing Muslim women’s freedom of choice. The Swiss Council of Religions said that the ban is disproportionately restricts religious freedom.
After the Federal Act on Electronic Identification Services provided for the introduction of digital identities in 2019, 1,778,014 people, 64.4 percent of voters, voted against electronic identification services. If the referendum had gone the other way, Swiss internet users would have be able to “identify themselves correctly and securely on the internet.”
In addition, 1,408,380 persons, or 51.6 percent of voters, voted for the Indonesia-European Free Trade Association Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. The agreement aims to ensure sustainability and remove most tariffs on exports from Switzerland to Indonesia.