The poster, unveiled in railway stations across Switzerland this week, shows a woman wearing a burqa with the strapline “Uncontrolled naturalization? No to facilitated naturalization”.
It was commissioned by a committee co-led by Swiss People’s Party (SVP) MP Andreas Glarner to oppose the facilitated naturalization bill, which goes to the polls on February 12th.
Launching the posters on Monday, the committee said in a statement that the bill could lead to mass naturalizations, which would have “damaging consequences for Swiss culture and identity”.
“The overpopulation of foreigners and the massive increase in the number of Muslims would change the very essence of Switzerland as well as our society and its values,” it said.
Speaking to newspaper 20 Minuten, Glarner, who has previously campaigned against burqas, said: “The burqa is a symbol of lack of integration.”
It would “threaten the identity of the country” to allow people to be naturalized more easily, he said.
He added that “even in the case of Muslim youths who were born here, radicalization can be observed”.
Supporters of the bill have called the posters a “dirty campaign”, with Christian-Democrat MP Rosmarie Quadranti telling 20 Minuten that the burqa had nothing to do with facilitated naturalization.
The campaign was “embarrassing” and “unfair”, she said.
The poster was created by the same ad agency that designed another controversial SVP poster, used last year to campaign for the deportation of foreign criminals, which showed a white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag. The image was slammed by many as racist.
The SVP also used provocative posters in its successful campaign to ban minarets in 2009.
The SVP's 'black sheep' poster caused controversy during previous referendums. Image: SVP
According to a Tamedia survey earlier this week the Swiss people are currently divided on whether to allow third generation immigrants easier access to the Swiss passport, with 50 percent in favour, 48 percent against and two percent undecided, 20 Minutes reported.
Backed by the government, the bill proposes that young third generation immigrants who were born and schooled in Switzerland should, under certain conditions, be allowed to apply for facilitated naturalization, a simplified version of the regular citizenship process.
One of their parents must have attended school in Switzerland and a grandparent must also have been either born in Switzerland or have been granted permanent residency.
The applicant must also be under 25.
In Switzerland citizenship is not automatically conferred on people born in the country.