Swiss Jews Join Muslims in Protesting Referendum Banning Face-covering Veils

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, speaks at a synagogue in Monaco, Nov. 23, 2017. (Courtesy of the Conference of European Rabbis)

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Swiss voters passed a referendum on banning face-covering veils, prompting the country’s Muslim and Jewish groups to protest that infringement on religious freedoms.

The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities and the Platform for Liberal Jews in Switzerland said the ban, which passed with 51% of the vote on Sunday, “restricts and violates several conditions of religious freedom.” In their joint statement, the groups also said they are “concerned that further legislative or federal popular initiatives could further undermine religious freedom in the future.”

The Swiss “have a long history of trying to curb migrations through banning religious practice,” Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis and a Zurich native, wrote in a separate statement.

In 1892, the Swiss ban on kosher slaughter, which remains in place today, was “designed to stop the Jewish migration from Russia” from pogroms, he added.

“We fear that this attacks against religious freedom further weakens the ability to practice one’s faith, a basic freedom and human right which is fundamental to a liberal democracy,” Goldschmidt wrote.

He called it “ironic” that the ban is coming at a time when most people are covering their face regularly to avoid spreading the coronavirus. The ban does not apply to face masks.

The referendum does not mention Islam, and its advocates say it also applies to hooligans. France, Belgium and Austria have similar bans.


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