Right-wing group seeks national face veil ban

The same group that launched the initiative to ban the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is now seeking a national law to prohibit the wearing of veils and other face-covering headgear.

The Ergerkingen Committee, linked to the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, announced in a statement on Tuesday that it planned to file a text of its proposal with federal authorities in the next few days.

The initiative is based on a petition that was backed by voters in the canton of Ticino in September 2013 and echoes similar legislation in France and Belgium.

Although the burka (full veil) and niqab (face veil), both Islamic forms of head dress, are not specifically mentioned, the initiative would ban the wearing in public places of any kind of clothing hiding the face.

 Public places include roads, squares and public transport.

Places of worship are excepted.

In the age of Islamic State terrorism, the population could not be expected to meet people in public who are hiding their heads from “basic security considerations”, the Ergerkingen Committee said.

Oskar Freysinger, Swiss People Party vice-president and a member of the committee, told the “Forum” TV program broadcast by RTS that is was better to be ready with legislation before the veil phenomenon could gain popularity.

In fact, there is little evidence of many people wearing face veils in Switzerland.

According to one estimate at the time of the Ticino vote, only around 100 Muslim women in Switzerland covered their faces.

In November, the federal government ruled that the decision by citizens of the Italian-speaking canton did not violate federal law, although it judged it to be inopportune.

The ban in Ticino is similar to a French law that the European Court in Strasbourg ruled in July last year was compatible with the European convention for human rights.