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Switzerland approves ban on facial coverings in public

Swiss voters have approved a ban on full facial coverings including burka and niqab nearly in all public spaces, in a referendum held on Sunday. 

According to official results from the nationwide referendum, the measure, proposed by the populist and anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party (SVP), had passed by 51.2% to 48.8%, in what was called “a dark day” for Muslims. 

It includes a full ban on facial coverings on the streets, in public offices, on public transport, in restaurants, shops and in the countryside, with the exception of places of worship and other sacred sites, as well as for health and safety reasons.

While the measure did not mention Islam directly, it was widely referred to as “the burka ban”, with SVP campaigning with slogans such as “Stop extremism” and “Stop radical Islam”.

Reacting to the move, the Central Council of Muslims said in a statement that the “decision opens old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality, and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority,” adding that it would challenge the decision in court. 

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