Having lived in Switzerland for over 10 years, I’ve found the native people of this country to be amicable, a little bit insular, but always having a fair dose of pragmatism when it comes to making big decisions. All except when it comes to Muslims. Thats when rationality and level-headedness seems to go out the window.
On March 7, in just under a month, Switzerland goes to the polls to vote on banning the niqab in all public places. While the government is officially opposed to the niqab ban, arguing that existing laws are strong enough to ban forced veiling, right-wing populists and the usual bandwagon of ex-muslims and their secularist friends have been whipping up a storm of outrage against women who wear niqab.
That this issue has gone to a national vote, may have you believe that you can’t cross a street without seeing a niqabi. Perhaps you imagine they are in the educational system here, in the department stores and setting the agenda in the media. But the fact is that in this country of over 8 million people current estimates put the number of niqabis at a grand total of 36.
To put into context how insane this obsession with our sisters is: the cost of holding a referendum is around 10 million Swiss Francs ($11.1 million USD). That means the Swiss will be paying upwards of 333k Swiss Francs – per woman – to organise a vote on whether those sisters should be allowed to cover their faces in public or not (lets not even mention the absurdity that we’ve all been wearing niqabs, I mean face-masks, for the past 12 months since Covid entered our lives!)
This vote cannot be seen in isolation to what has been going on in the country and across continental Europe these past ten years. The motion to ban the niqab was developed and pushed by the same committee that successfully banned the building of minarets in 2009, and who have already declared that the minaret ban along with the banning of the niqab are “the first steps…”.
Headlines from news stories going back to 2016 ominously quote members of this committee saying they “have the headscarf in their sights”, so we have a good idea of where this is headed.
Against the backdrop of a young, politically inexperienced Muslim community, the media is having a field day. Pages and pages in newspapers and hours of TV-time is given to ex-muslims and their friends all regurgitating the same old tropes.
“Its the sign of extremist, fascist, political Islam!”
“We want to give women freedom!”
“Any woman who chooses to wear it of her own free-will, well, she’s brainwashed!”
They even try to teach us our own religion and tell us that the niqab has nothing to do with Islam!
So in the interim as we join efforts to organise the community here and help them to stand up, our eyes turn back to you: our brothers and sisters across Europe and North America. After Allah and His Messenger our support comes from Muslims around the globe.