Poll: Swiss voters approve ban of mosque minarets labeled symbols of Islam by right-wing group
Swiss voters appear to support a controversial ban on new minarets at mosques — sparking outrage from Islamic groups.
Partial election returns from Sunday afternoon showed that 59 % of voters backed the right-wing plan to outlaw new construction of the distinctive mosque towers, according to projections from a leading polling institute.
Polls before the election showed just 37 % support for the proposal, which was backed by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party, the country’s largest party.
Taner Hatipoglu, president of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Zurich, said the vote appeared to achieve “something everyone wanted to prevent” and added that if the anti-Islam sentiment continues “Muslims indeed will not feel safe anymore.”
The proposal is part of a growing anti-Islamic backlash in Europe and has stoked fears of violent reactions in Muslim countries.
Some Swiss leaders are also concerned the move could spark an economically disastrous boycott by wealthy Muslims who bank, shop and vacation in Switzerland.
In the lead-up to the election, Swiss People’s Party officials argued that minarets – which are used in most countries for calls to prayer – are symbols of rising Muslim power that could eventually turn Switzerland into an Islamic nation.
Campaign posters show minarets rising like missiles from the Swiss flag next to a fully veiled woman.
“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,” said Ulrich Schlueer, co-president of the Initiative Committee to ban minarets.
Before the vote, Swiss government leaders spoke out strongly against the initiative, which will not affect the four minarets already attached to mosques in the country.
Muslims make up about 6 % of Switzerland’s 7.5 million people and fewer than 13 % practice their religion, according to government estimates.
Many Swiss Muslims are refugees from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.
Swiss mosques do not broadcast the call to prayer outside their buildings.