Officials in the Swiss county of Ticino voted Monday to make the Muslim burqa illegal in public spaces, with fines of up to $9,800 for violations.
The local government wanted the law to also include other forms of headwear that cover the face, including masks worn by demonstrators and soccer hooligans, but the parliament voted to only ban the burqas and niqabs (face veil). This means covering your face in public is legal, as long as you don’t do it with a burqa or niqab.
Giorgio Ghiringhelli, who drew up the proposal, said the result will send a message to “Islamist fundamentalists” in the country.
“Those who want to integrate are welcome irrespective of religion,” Ghiringhelli said. “But those who rebuff our values and aim to build a parallel society based on religious laws, and want to place it over our society, are not welcome.”
Similar laws are already in place in countries such as France and Belgium. The proposal has received a great deal of attention in Switzerland for being racist, but the federal government concluded that it is constitutional.
Human Rights organization Amnesty International called it “a black day for human rights in Tercino” when a vote in 2013 showed a 65 percent support for the ban from the public.
Increased security measures were taken for the voting session Monday with metal detectors to prevent a possible disturbance by demonstrators.
Tourists will not be except from the law and will be informed of the rules at airports and train stations.
Ticino has a population of about 350,000 with muslims making up roughly two percent.
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