The Swiss government has reportedly submitted a bill to parliament to fine anyone who violates the national face-covering rule on Wednesday, 12 October. The bill is said to impose a fine of 1,000 Swiss francs for anyone violating the ban, such as wearing a niqab or burqa.
The bill is part of last year’s referendum on face coverings. Back then, the proposed ban, also known as the “burqa ban,” was supported by 51.6 percent of voters despite criticism that the ban was considered Islamophobic and sexist.
After consultations, the cabinet eased calls for imposing a ban on the penal code and fines of up to 10,000 francs for violators. Quoted from Al Jazeera, the Swiss government, in an official statement, stressed that the ban on covering the face is aimed at ensuring public safety and order, and punishment is not the priority.
The ban itself is an initiative launched by the Egerkinger Committee. This group includes politicians from the far-right Swiss People’s Party, which claims they are organizing resistance to political Islam rule in Switzerland. One of its members, Jean-Luc Addor, argued that the ban would promote equality between men and women and play a significant role in fighting Islamic radicalization.
While it does not explicitly mention the burqa or niqab, the bill prohibits people from covering their faces in public places, such as public transport, restaurants, or walking on the street. The bill requires people to show their eyes, nose, and mouth in public.
For example, Muslim women are allowed to wear the hijab to cover their hair, but they are not allowed to wear the niqab, which only shows the eyes, or the burqa, which covers the entire body, including the face.
The bill stipulates that the burqa can only be worn in places of worship. Another exception to the law is that face coverings may only be used in public areas for safety, climate, or health reasons, such as masks used to protect people from the spread of COVID-19.
The Swiss Muslim community undoubtedly opposed the ban that criminalizes the niqab and burqa, which considers the ban to marginalize Muslim minorities further and attack religious freedom.
The Swiss Islamic Central Council argued that the vote for the face-covering ban was concrete evidence that Islamophobia has been on the rise in Switzerland since the prohibition of the minaret of mosques in 2009. The council vowed to support anyone who decides to keep wearing a niqab or burqa in the name of freedom by paying the fine.