Voters in Switzerland favored a national referendum vote Sunday to ban minarets on mosques, according to exit polls. Early indications are that both a majority of voters and majority of cantons backed the referendum proposal. Local media called the apparent prohibition a “slap in the face” to the government, which opposed the ban.
One of the arguments by those against the ban is that it will provoke Muslim extremism, a religious boycott by wealthy Muslims, as well as Muslim protest violence. These are similar to the consequences two years ago after a Dutch cartoonist published a caricature of the Muslim prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.
Projections a week ago showed that less than 40 percent favored a minaret ban, but exit polls revealed that nearly 60 percent of the voters supported it. Backers of the ban said the minarets are a symbol of militant Islam. Muslims comprise approximately five percent of the country’s population, more than double the number in the 1990s.
Although the minarets towers on Switzerland’s 160 mosques do not broadcast calls to prayer, Ulrich Schlueer, one of the organizations of the referendum, said, "Forced marriages and other things like cemeteries separating the pure and impure — we don't have that in Switzerland, and we do not want to introduce it.”
The campaign against the minarets featured a poster showing a woman in a burka, the Muslim dress that covers the body from neck to toe, with a background of minarets in the shape of missiles.
Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, who opposed the ban, told the Swissinfro.ch website, “Its supporters say they are against minarets. But they want to fight what they consider creeping Islamicization and Sharia law.”