Switzerland Parliament Passes Burqa Ban:  What You Need to Know

Switzerland's lower house of parliament has passed a law that bans face coverings, such as burqas, and imposes fines of up to 1,000 Swiss francs for those who violate it.

This legislation, which had already received approval from the upper house, has now become federal law and applies to both public spaces and private buildings accessible to the public, though there are exceptions.

Despite reservations from centrists and Greens, the ban was passed by a significant margin in the Lower House of Switzerland's Parliament, with a vote tally of 151-29.

The impetus for this ban came from the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party (SVP), which moved to enact it following a 2021 nationwide vote that supported prohibiting niqabs with eye slits, burqas, ski masks, and bandanas.

The law comes with a fine of 1,000 Swiss francs, roughly equivalent to $1,100, for individuals who do not comply with the ban.

The initiative to legally ban burqas was spearheaded by members of the Swiss People's Party (SVP) associated with the Egerkinger Komitee, an organization that aims to counter the influence of political Islam in Switzerland.

Muslim groups, however, criticized the referendum to ban burqas in Switzerland. Ines El-Shikh, a spokesperson for the Purple Headscarves, a group representing Muslim women, expressed concerns to AFP news agency, mentioning that there are only around 30 women who wear burqas in Switzerland.

Switzerland's Islamic Central Council pointed out that the vote reflects anti-Muslim sentiments within the nation and stressed that the ban covers the concealment of the nose, mouth, and eyes in various public and certain private settings.

Switzerland has now joined the ranks of countries that have enacted similar bans on women wearing burqas in public spaces. This list includes France, China, Belgium, Denmark, Sri Lanka, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the Republic of the Congo.

The ban on face coverings in Switzerland raises questions about religious freedom, cultural diversity, and the balance between security concerns and individual liberties in the country.