Minaret Ban Shoves Swiss Hard to the Right
Surprise vote shows anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment on the rise
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2009 12:38 PM CST
Walter Wobmann, president of the committee "Yes for a ban of Minarets", looks at a campaign poster in Egerkingen, Switzerland, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Marcel Bieri)
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(Newser) – The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) got a surprising shot in the arm with Sunday’s vote to ban minarets in the country. Though it’s been growing rapidly since its 1980s inception, the SVP has had little success in referenda until now, with critics accusing it of racism for its anti-immigrant campaigning, Reuters reports—including the infamous posters showing a white sheep kicking a black one off the Swiss flag. Muslim leaders condemned the vote, and Swiss companies braced for a backlash, the Wall Street Journal adds.

The 53% turnout was unusually large for Switzerland, with a mass of rural voters overwhelming more liberal city dwellers. "It represents a two finger gesture against the towns, foreigners, the powerful, the better educated and the like," said one Swiss analyst. The vote undermines Switzerland’s carefully cultivated neutral image. “This vote is shocking because it took place in a state which advocates secularism and which prides itself on treating all religions on an equal basis,” said one Algerian paper.