Swiss ban of minarets continues to draw criticism
Campaign poster in favor of the referendum banning minarets
Campaign poster in favor of the referendum banning minarets
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.- The referendum outlawing new minarets from being built in Switzerland has received few votes in favor from the international community since it was passed into law in a vote on Sunday.  The Swiss Conference of Catholic Bishops is among those who oppose the result as an infringement on freedom of religion.

Nearly 58% of Swiss voters, including the majority in all but four of the 26 counties in Switzerland, passed the measure to block new minaret construction within the country with a 'yes' vote.

"This is a blow to religious freedom and integration" Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported the Swiss Conference of Catholic Bishops (SCCB) as saying, and it's "a tendency that complicates things for Christians who live in nations where this liberty is already limited."

SCCB spokesman, Walter Muller said that the referendum will only serve "to add to the problems of cohabitation between religion and culture" in the country.  He added that it wouldn't help abroad either, in countries where Muslims outnumber Christians.

In a statement to Vatican Radio, Secretary General of the SCCB Fr. Felix Gmur underlined the fact that in the cities of Geneva and Basel, where the highest concentrations of Muslims live in Switzerland, the vote came out in favor of building minarets.

Gmur added that the paradoxical overall result against freedom of religion in public came from a Christian society that must, as an intrinsic element of Christianity, practice in public.  He proposed a debate to "clarify this because society is disoriented, there is a contradiction in all of European society, as is shown in the open question of crucifixes in Italy."

In November of this year, the EU Human Rights Court prohibited crucifixes in Italian schools.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe said that the vote "is worrying for a number of reasons, including the fact the Swiss people have seen fit to limit the religious practice of one particular group."  He added, "I trust the Swiss government will work swiftly to be sure the Swiss are not viewed as an intolerant people.”

Central to debate on the matter of the minarets is the question of how the measure made it onto ballots at all.  Many regard it as integral to the human rights and liberties provided for in the constitution.

The affirmative vote was campaigned for aggressively in the lead up to the elections by the Federal Democratic Union political party, which has drawn international attention in recent years for its anti-immigration platform.  Campaign posters included one of a woman in a niqab flanked by a number of minarets modified to look like missiles.

Northern Italian and Dutch populist parties are among the few to speak in favor of the “yes” vote, and have said they will soon put together their own campaigns for the same cause.

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December 20, 2014

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