Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 343, 11 March 2021

Switzerland: Referendum calls for ban on face coverings in public 
Harini Madhusudan

In the news 
On 8 March, Switzerland voted narrowly in favour of a ban on face coverings in public. The referendum was passed by 51.2 per cent in favour of the ban on face-coverings. The proposal to ban was put forward and campaigned by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) with slogans like “Stop Extremism! Yes to the veil ban.” Formally, there was no mention of ‘Islam’ in the campaign and the referendum was essentially promoted as an attempt that is aimed at stopping violent street protesters from using face coverings. However, the voting process is widely being referred to as the burqa ban. As a response to it, a leading Swiss Islamic group said it was “a dark day” for Muslims in Switzerland.

Issues at large
First, the narrow vote and Islam in Switzerland. About five per cent of Switzerland's population of 8.6 million people are Muslim, most originating from Turkey, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Switzerland in 2013, had considered a ban because the Swiss Justice Minister said that the veils made her uncomfortable; 65 per cent of the electorate voted in favour to ban face veils in public areas. Hence the 2021 decision opens old wounds. The narrow win between 51.2 per cent against 48.8 per cent further expands the principle of legal inequality and the stark divide among society. The Swiss parliament has been mildly sceptical in passing the referendum and is seen looking at alternatives to accommodate the use of face veils. The tourism industry alliance too has announced that they do not encourage the ban.

Second, the larger debate in Europe. Many countries across Europe have, in the past, debated and put into force a ban/ partial ban on the usage of head scarfs or religious symbols in public spaces. To name a few, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Russia, Bulgaria all have legislations related to face-covering in their own countries. The ban on face coverings thus brings up the debate of multiculturalism in Europe on the pretext of public anxiety over the influx of migrants, the debate pours into discussions on religious freedoms, secular traditions as against extremism, or terrorism. France stands as the closest example of the same; it banned face veils in 2011.

Third, the growing right-wing politics. The recent years have seen substantial growth in popular sentiments against particular communities within the European Society. While some politicians argue for the need for greater assimilation, the issue generally plays out as a strong point in the mandates of right-wing/ populist political leaders. People of Switzerland are regularly invited to vote on various issues in national or regional referendums. Ahead of the vote, the chairman of the referendum committee and an SVP lawmaker described Muslim face coverings as “a symbol for this extreme, political Islam which has become increasingly prominent in Europe and which has no place in Switzerland.” So, the motivation behind the campaign could necessarily have been targeted towards the practices of one community.  

In perspective
Policies like these set dangerous long-term trends within societies and the wearing of veils in public have been an increasingly controversial topic in European countries. The choice to not use the word Islam in the referendum has been an interesting move by the campaigners. Switzerland follows France in taking popular measures on the role of religious practices in public lives. The small margin of the results of the referendum, however, stands as the highlight of this initiative.
 

May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 374
Yemen: The Battle for Marib rages on

April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 371
Pakistan: Meetings with Afghan leaders
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 369
Israel-Syria: Continuing Missile Strikes
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 362
Iran: Another act of

April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 358
India: Another Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh

April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 356
Global Gender Gap Report 2021: Main Takeaways
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 353
Niger: 137 massacred in the latest attack by gunmen
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 351
Yemen: Saudi Arabia announces ceasefire

March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 347
Australia: Women fight against sexual violence 

March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 345
The US: The George Floyd trial begins
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 340
Syria: UN report calls for a complete ceasefire
February 2021 | Conflict Alert # 333
South Korea: The 'Comfort Women' issue returns to haunt
January 2021 | Conflict Alert # 222
Russia: Pro-Navalny protests turn anti-government 

January 2021 | Conflict Alert # 220
COVID-19: The Vaccine Wars
December 2020 | Conflict Alert # 200
India: Farmers' protests intensify as deadlock persists
November 2020 | Conflict Alert # 191
Pakistan: Anti-French protests called off
October 2020 | Conflict Alert # 174
Bangladesh: Protests intensify against sexual violence

October 2020 | Conflict Alert # 167
India crosses 6 million-mark in COVID-19 cases
September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 166
Pakistan: The persisting polio problem

September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 156
Pakistan: Targeted Violence continues in Waziristan
September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 154
The anti-Racist Protests in the US: Between

August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 148
Israel and UAE normalize relations
August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 146
Bolivia: Protests against the Election postponement

August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 138
In Iraq, the protestors return to the streets 
July 2020 | Conflict Alert # 118
J&K: Geelani's Exit and Continuing Violence
June 2020 | Conflict Alert # 105
Black Lives Matter brings the US to its knees

May 2020 | Conflict Alert # 86
Libya: Khalifa Haftar announces ceasefire 
May 2020 | Conflict Alert # 81
India: The surge in violence in J&K

April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 71
Afghanistan: 300 Taliban prisoners released
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 67
Syria: New UN Report on Idlib
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 64
A lethal impact on the Refugee/Migrant Camps 
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 63
Indigenous Communities battle a complete wipeout 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 51
Coronavirus & China: Fall in numbers 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 47
Coronavirus & Nepal: In the second stage, cancels
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 44
Two Presidents in Afghanistan
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 42
'Aurat March': A New beginning across Pakistan 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 38
Sri Lanka withdraws from 30/1 Geneva Resolution
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 35
A ceasefire between Israel, Islamic Jihad in Gaza
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 34
Libya: rivals withdraw from Geneva peace talks
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 33
India: Violence in Delhi

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 32
Afghanistan: Seven Days of Peace
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 31
Climate Change Fallouts: Impacts the Bird population
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 28
Pakistan: Court convicts LeT founder Hafiz Saeed
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 27
Pakistan: Suicide terrorism returns to haunt Quetta
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 26
Afghanistan: The US-Taliban Seven Day Deal
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 24
Israel: Violence in post  Trump-deal
January 2020 | Conflict Alert # 20
Kenya: Al Shabab and a week of killings
December 2019 | Conflict Alert # 19
Citizenship Amendment Bill:2019
November 2019 | Conflict Alert # 18
Lebanon: PM Hariri quits, but protests continue 
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 16
Bolivian unrest
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 15
Hundreds protest in Haiti
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 14
Protests rock Chile
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 13
Hong Kong Violence: A divide within

October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 12
Spain: The trouble in Catalonia
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 11
Turkey's Offensive in Syria
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 9
Africa to be Polio Free

August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 7
Myanmar: Teenage girls traded as brides to China
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 6
Moscow Protests: Thousands rally in Moscow
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 3
Jordan Restores diplomatic ties with Qatar