Jewish groups in Switzerland joined Muslim groups in protesting a ban on face-coverings as an infringement on religious freedom after a referendum was passed to ban them on Sunday, JTA reported.
In a statement, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis and a Zurich native, said that the Swiss “has a long history of trying to curb migrations through banning religious practice.”
As an example he mentioned the Swiss ban on shechita in 1892, which is still binding today, saying that it was passed to stop the Jewish migration from Russia due to pogroms.
In a joint statement, the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities and the Platform for Liberal Jews in Switzerland said that the ban “restricts and violates several conditions of religious freedom” and that they are “concerned that further legislative or federal popular initiatives could further undermine religious freedom in the future.”
The referendum to ban full-face coverings was narrowly passed by a 51% vote. The government had expressed opposition to the ban, saying that it is excessive since full-face coverings are a “marginal phenomenon” in Switzerland. Experts say that only a few dozen Muslim women out of a population of 8.5 million wear full-face coverings.
The government also fears that the ban will harm tourism since wealthy Muslim women from Persian Gulf States like to vacation in Swiss lakeside cities.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)