Swiss to Vote on Minaret Ban

Referendum this month sparks fear of Muslim backlash
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 5, 2009 6:47 AM CST
A man passes a poster of the right-wing Swiss People's Party which shows a woman wearing a burqa against a background of a Swiss flag with several minarets resemble missiles in Geneva, Nov. 4, 2009.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)
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(Newser) – Swiss government and business leaders are having a panic attack over a referendum that would ban minarets on mosques—and, they fear, make the country a target for Islamic terrorism. The handiwork of the anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party, infamous for an earlier campaign poster showing a white sheep kicking a black sheep out of Switzerland, the referendum will be voted on Nov. 29. Only four of the 150 mosques in Switzerland have minarets, the Wall Street Journal notes, and sound-pollution laws already ban amplified calls to prayer.

Polls show 53% of voters oppose the ban and 34% support it. Should it pass, business leaders fear a backlash against their products in Muslim countries, an important market for Swiss goods. "The brand 'Swiss' must continue to represent values such as openness, pluralism, and freedom of religion," a Swatch exec tells the Journal. "Under no circumstances must it be brought in connection with hatred, animosity towards foreigners, and narrow-mindedness."