Mar 7, 2021 - World

Switzerland voters approve ban on full facial coverings

Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

An electoral poster in favor of a "burqa ban" initiative reading in French: "Stop extremism!" Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

Swiss voters approved a ban on full facial coverings, including niqabs and burqas, by a razor-thin margin in a highly-contested referendum Sunday, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The proposal, which has been criticized by various Swiss religious organizations, human rights groups and even the federal government, passed with 51.21% of the vote. While it does not mention Islam specifically, it has been referred to by some Swiss media as a "burqa ban," per CNN.

The Swiss Federal Council, which heads the country's government, and the Swiss Parliament rejected the initiative and advised people to vote against it.

  • They have put forth a counter-proposal which would require people to remove any face coverings in front of officials for identification.

Where it stands: Facial covering will be banned in all public spaces, with the exception of places of worship and places where wearing them is considered a "local custom." Tourists are not exempt from the rule.

  • Face coverings will also be allowed for health and safety reasons.

Of note: Other countries in the EU, such as France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark already have local or partial bands on facial coverings, CNN notes.

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