Swiss residents narrowly back proposition to ban burkas in public, other face coverings

Nationalist group Swiss People's Party called measure "strong symbol in the fight against radical political Islam."

Published: March 8, 2021 9:03am

Updated: March 8, 2021 12:44pm

Switzerland residents voted Sunday in favor of banning the public wearing of face coverings such as niqabs and burkas worn by Muslim women.

If Swiss legislators draft and vote into law such legislation, people would no longer be allowed to cover their face in such areas  as restaurants, public transports and even on streets. The legislation would also ban protesters from wearing bandanas and ski masks.

Swiss authorities have two years to draft the legislation, according to the Associated Press.

The ban narrowly passed, with only 51.2 percent of voters showing support.

One of the largest backers of the initiative was the nationalist Swiss People's Party, which called the new measure a "strong symbol in the fight against radical political Islam, according to NPR.

Some feminist and progressive Muslim groups support the legislation, arguing full-face coverings are oppressive to women. Other, more traditional Muslim groups have rejected the proposal, claiming it "islamophobically motivated," NPR also reports.

Other groups argue the ban would hurt tourism, saying many Muslim women coming to Switzerland wear such head and face coverings. 

Authorities say exceptions to the ban would include the wearing of COVID masks and religious coverings in places of worship. 

This move adds Switzerland to five other European nations that have banned veil coverings, including neighbors France and Austria.

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