Voters in Switzerland have approved a ban on the construction of
minarets on mosques, official results show.
Of those who cast votes in Sunday's poll, 57.5 per cent approved the
ban, while only four cantons out of 26 rejected the proposals.
The result paves the way for a constitutional amendment to be made.
"The Federal Council [government] respects this decision.
Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no
longer permitted," the government, which had opposed the ban, said
in a statement.
The Swiss People's Party (SVP) had forced a referendum on the issue
after it collected 100,000 signatures within 18 months from eligible
Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Bern, the Swiss capital,
said: "There is concern in Switzerland undoubtedly about what is
being seen as the spread of radical Islam, but the Muslim community
here has always been regarded as fairly moderate.
"They were saying that they wanted to see this proposal defeated, so
I'm sure it is a real shock to them that at the moment we are seeing
that most of the people here have voted in favour of [the ban]."
After the official results were known, far-right politicians
celebrated, while the government sought to assure the Muslim
minority that a ban on minarets was "not a rejection of the Muslim
community, religion or culture".
Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Switzerland's justice minister, said the
result "reflects fears among the population of Islamic
"These concerns have to be taken seriously ... However, the Federal
Council takes the view that a ban on the construction of new
minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist
tendencies," she said.
Farhad Afshar, who heads the Co-ordination of Islamic Organisations
in Switzerland, said that "the most painful for us is not the
minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote."
Supporters of the ban say minarets represent the growth of an alien
ideology and legal system that have no place in the Swiss democracy.
"Forced marriages and other things like cemeteries separating the
pure and impure - we don't have that in Switzerland, and we do not
want to introduce it," Ulrich Schlueer, co-president of the
Initiative Committee to ban minarets, said.
"Therefore, there's no room for minarets in Switzerland."
But Switzerland's Muslims said that the referendum had fuelled
anti-Islamic feeling in the country.
"The initiators have achieved something everyone wanted to prevent,
and that is to influence and change the relations to Muslims and
their social integration in a negative way," Taner Hatipoglu, the
president of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Zurich,
"We are frightened, and if the atmosphere continues to be like this
and if the anti-Islamic hate increases, then the Muslims indeed will
not feel safe anymore. This of course is very unpleasant."
About 400,000 Muslims live in Switzerland, whose population is just
under eight million. Most Muslim citizens are immigrants from the
former Yugoslavia and Turkey.
Although Islam is the country's second largest religion after
Christianity, there are only four mosques with minarets in the whole
Posters by those backing the ban showed a figure of a woman shrouded
from head to foot in a burka. Behind her is the Swiss flag, shaped
like a map of the country, with black minarets shooting up out of it
The cities of Basel, Lausanne and Fribourg banned the billboards,
saying they painted a "racist, disrespectful and dangerous image" of
The United Nations Human Rights Committee called the posters
discriminatory and said Switzerland would violate international law
if it bans minarets.