Swiss Muslims express shock at overwhelming support for minarets ban

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Geneva, Nov. 30 (ANI): An overwhelming majority of the Swiss population voting against the construction of new minarets has caused greater pain to the Muslims in the country than the national ban altogether.

Muslims no longer feel accepted in Switzerland after more than 57 percent of Swiss resident voters on Sunday - a majority in 22 out of the country's 26's cantons - approved a proposal to ban the construction of new minarets, the prayer towers of mosques.

"Most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community," the New York Times quoted Farhad Afshar, who runs the Coordination of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland, as saying.

The Swiss Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the rightist Swiss People's Party had proposed inserting a single sentence banning the construction of minarets, leading to the referendum.

The Swiss government said it would respect the vote and sought to reassure the Muslim population that the minaret ban was "not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture."

"The Federal Council takes the view that a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies," the government said in a statement.

The government must now draft a supporting law on the ban, a process that could take at least a year and could put Switzerland in breach of international conventions on human rights.

"That Switzerland, a country with a long tradition of religious tolerance and the provision of refuge to the persecuted, should have accepted such a grotesquely discriminatory proposal is shocking," said David Diaz-Jogeix, Amnesty International's deputy program director for Europe and Central Asia.

There are about 400,000 Muslims in a population of some 7.5 million people. Nearly 90 percent of Muslims in Switzerland are from Kosovo and Turkey, and most do not adhere to the strict dress codes and conduct associated with conservative Muslim countries. (ANI)

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