Amnesty International criticized Switzerland’s new “burqa ban” as a “dangerous violation of freedoms”.
The proposal to ban face coverings in the country was won by a narrow victory in a referendum today.
It was brought by the same group that organized a ban on new minarets in 2009, reports the Independently.
But full face veils are still allowed to be worn in places of worship and for “local customs”.
Preliminary results show that 51.2 percent voted in favor, versus 48.8 percent against.
“After the ban on minarets, a majority of Swiss voters again supported an initiative that discriminates against a single religious community and creates unnecessary fears and divisions,” said Amnesty International.
“The ban on veiling is not a measure to liberate women, but a dangerous symbolic policy that violates freedom of expression and freedom of religion.”
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The plans also prevent people from wearing masks during street protests.
The new law does not directly mention Islam, but the bill was still referred to by the media and politicians as a burqa ban.
“In Switzerland it is our tradition that you show your face. This is a sign of our fundamental freedoms, “said Walter Wobmann, chairman of the referendum committee and member of the Swiss People’s Party, before the vote.
He described the face covering as “a symbol of this extreme political Islam, which has become more and more important in Europe and has no more place in Switzerland”.
However, the ban has been criticized by a number of groups. The Central Council of Muslims in Switzerland described the vote as a “dark day for the community”.
“Today’s decision opens old wounds, expands the principle of legal inequality and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority,” it said.
It promised legal challenges for laws to implement the ban and a fundraiser to help women who are being fined.
The proposal preceded the Covid-19 pandemic, which required adults to wear masks in many situations to prevent the spread of infection.
France banned the wearing of a full face veil in public in 2011, and Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Bulgaria banned all or part of the wearing of face covers in public.
A recent study by the University of Lucerne put the number of women in Switzerland who wear a niqab at 21 to 37 and found no evidence at all for women who wear the burqa.
Figures also show that Muslims make up 5 percent of the Swiss population of 8.6 million people, most of them with roots in Turkey, Bosnia and Kosovo.
The government had asked people to vote against the ban.