In an effort to enforce a “burqa ban,” the Swiss government on Wednesday submitted a draft law to the parliament that would impose fines of up to $1,000 ($1,005) on those who disobey a countrywide ban on facial coverings.
The same group that organized a ban on new minarets in 2009 also organized a far-right initiative to outlaw facial veils in public, which narrowly prevailed in a binding referendum last year.
In 2011, France outlawed the wearing of full face veils in public, while facial coverings are completely or partially prohibited in Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, and Bulgaria.
The majority of Switzerland’s 5% Muslim population has origins in Turkey, Bosnia, and Kosovo.
Although the proposed sanctions by the cabinet did not specifically name Islam and were also intended to prevent violent street demonstrators from donning masks, local lawmakers, the media, and activists refer to the legislation as the “burqa ban.”
Following talks, the government softened demands to include it in the penal code and impose fines of up to 10,000 francs on violators.
“The face-covering prohibition is intended to maintain law and order in the community. The priority is not punishment, it stated in a statement. The draft also contained several exceptions to the statute.
The government proposed lifting the restrictions on aircraft, diplomatic locations, and places of worship. Coverages relating to health, safety, weather, and regional customs would continue to be valid. Advertising and artistic performances would be exempt.
Masks would be permitted as long as authorities approved and public order was ensured while enjoying fundamental rights to expression and assembly.
Facial coverings were described as a sign of radical, political Islam by those who supported the ban. Muslim organizations blasted the vote as discriminatory and pledged to file lawsuits.