Switzerland Proposes $1k Fines for Burqa Ban Violations

Photo: AFP [via Alarabiya News]

The Facts

  • New proposals could reportedly see fines of up to 1,000 Swiss francs (around $1,005) issued to anyone who violates restrictions on face coverings in Switzerland. Penalties for those who break the ban have already been diluted after the cabinet refused calls to anchor the law in the criminal code.

  • A ban on all face coverings in public, including religious veils, was passed last year following a binding referendum on the issue. The so-called "burqa ban" received narrowly more support than opposition, and was brought by the same group that launched restrictions on new minarets in 2009.

The Spin

Progressive narrative

A number of European countries, as well as the Canadian province of Quebec, have adopted "secularist" laws that prohibit the wearing of religious symbols in public, including religious dress. Such laws reflect a homogenization of society and repression of the diverse experiences and motivations people have for expressing their religion through clothing, especially Muslim women. Denying them the ability to choose whether to wear a veil removes their autonomy and sense of self.

Conservative narrative

Europe is the beacon of secular liberal democracy and, where public spaces are shared by such multicultural and diverse groups as make up many populations in European countries, rules about dress can and should be imposed to stop any one group from dominating another. Islamists thrive on the idea of Muslims being a society-within-a-society - governments must put a stop to such notions to prevent sectarian fractures.

Cynical narrative

This ban is Islamophobic and aimed at tackling a non-existent problem, as muslims are already well integrated in Swiss society. The right-wing are simply using the niqab to rally support and give the population something to project their fears onto.

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