Burka Ban: Switzerland To Impose Up To 10,000 Swiss Francs Fine On Anyone Wearing A Niqab

Switzerland has imposed a strict ban on burkas. Anyone seen in public wearing a full face veil will be fined up to 10,000 Swiss Francs ($10,200) under the recently enacted anti-burka law, which covers burkas and niqabs.

A ban of burkas has come into effect in a popular part of Switzerland. Authorities in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino or Tessin announced the new piece of punitive legislation that allows the regional officers to penalize anyone seen wearing a burka, a traditional garment of the Muslims that women wear. The local government approved the law after a referendum in September 2013 saw 65 percent of the voters backing the move, reported the Daily Mail.

Law enforcement officials have been instructed to detain the person wearing the dress in shops, restaurants and public buildings and levy a fine of up to 10,000 Swiss Francs. The minimum fine, though, starts at 100 Swiss Francs. It is not immediately clear how the district plans to vary the fine amount, but it appears to be staggered. In other words, the fine might be increasingly higher for each subsequent violation.

According to the Telegraph, two people have already been fined in the Swiss canton for defying the law that came into effect from the first of this month. Apparently, Nora Illi, a member of the Islamic Central Council Switzerland, intentionally violated the rules last Friday and was penalized by the local police. Alongside Illi was Rachid Nekkaz, a political activist, reported SwissInfo. While Illifine was fined 200 Swiss francs, Nekkaz faces a much steeper penalty. While the police are still deliberating on the amount, Nekkaz could be fined the maximum amount.

Surprisingly, the region in Switzerland has been a favorite among Muslims. Tourist data indicates 40,000 Middle East citizens flocked to the region to enjoy the cold climate last year, reported the Express. Switzerland does need the influx of foreign tourists since hotels and retailers have been hit hard owing to a severe decline in European visitors primarily due to the strong franc, reported Le News.

Even more surprisingly, the Saudi Arabian embassy in Bern has merely warned its citizens visiting Switzerland about the ban on Twitter.

The translation reads as follows.

“The embassy wishes to emphasize that the Ticino cantonal authorities in south eastern Switzerland have announced that as of July 1, 2016 they will start to enforce the burka (niqab) ban in public places in the canton, including in Lugano, Locarno, Magadino, Bellinzona, Ascona and Mendrisio.

“As school holidays [in Saudi Arabia] are coming up, the embassy reminds all honorable citizens of the necessity to respect and conform to Swiss rules and regulations in order avoid all problems.”

Does the legislature specifically ban burkas? Interestingly, the law does not explicitly single out the traditional attire of Muslim females or point out the Muslim way of dressing. However, it categorically notes that “nobody in public streets or squares may veil or hide their face.” Incidentally, a headscarf, which in Muslim community is referred to as a hijab, is permitted. Hijab usually covers the head, hair and neck of the wearer, while exposing the face. Traditionally, young Muslim girls are allowed to wear a hijab.

Needless to say, the ban has invited widespread criticism, with many questioning the true motive. While experts have doubted the logic behind banning the burka and niqab, the law applies not just to the handful Muslim citizens of Ticino, but also to tourists.

According to the Local, the Ticino government had originally wanted to ban burkas and niqabs as well as masks worn by demonstrators and balaclavas. However, lawmakers seemed heavily inclined towards banning the veil that completely obscures the face of the wearer.

The Swiss Parliament has categorically noted that the ban does not violate federal law, perhaps indicating that other regions might soon follow suit. France currently has a legislature that penalizes women with fines ranging from $50 to $200 for wearing the niqab.

[Photo by Fayez Nureldine/Getty Images]