Voters in Switzerland approved a ban on non-medical face coverings in all public areas by a thin 51%-49% margin Sunday.
The new ban will include religious attire such as burqas and niqabs worn by Muslim women, and face coverings worn by protesters like ski masks and bandannas to conceal their identity, according to the Associated Press. Authorities will now have two years to write specific legislation following the referendum.
Switzerland, final results:
National referendum on the ban of Burqa on 7 March 2021
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) March 7, 2021
The ban is reportedly expected to apply in public areas like sporting events, restaurants, public transportation, and public streets. The Swiss national government has previously opposed such a ban, according to the AP, but two Swiss states already have similar laws on the books. (RELATED: ‘The Terrorist Risk Is Everywhere’ — Macron Calls For Stricter European Borders After Recent Attacks)
The nationalist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) spearheaded the pro-ban vote. Lawmaker Walter Wobmann, who leads the committee which started the proposal, reportedly said the ban would “a symbol of a completely different system of values… extremely radical Islam” and protesting “hooligans.”
The SVP said the vote represented a “strong symbol in the fight against radical political Islam.” Some groups of feminists and progressive Muslims also supported the ban, arguing that burqas and niqabs are oppressive towards women, according to the BBC.
Opponents say that hardly any women in the country of more than eight million people wear face coverings anyways, and many that do are tourists from wealthy Middle Eastern countries, according to the AP. A coalition of left-wing parties campaigned against the ban, calling it “Absurd. Useless. Islamophobic.” (RELATED: France Proposes Sweeping New Law To Crack Down On Islamic Extremism)
France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Austria are among the other European countries that have banned facial coverings in public areas, according to NPR.