08:46 GMT +3 hours28 November 2014
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Switzerland bans minarets, could face Strasbourg court

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Switzerland voted on Sunday to ban the construction of new minarets, disappointing the country's Muslims but making those who proposed the nationwide referendum rejoice at its results.

Switzerland voted on Sunday to ban the construction of new minarets, disappointing the country's Muslims but making those who proposed the nationwide referendum rejoice at its results.

A total of 57.5% of eligible voters and 22 out of 26 cantons backed the initiative aimed at stopping "Islamization of Switzerland" put forward by the rightist Swiss People's Party (SVP) that the government and parliament had rejected; those opposing the ban said they could go to the Strasbourg court.

SVP, the country's biggest party, collected a sufficient number of signatures to have the referendum held in line with Swiss laws. The authorities said that they would respect the decision made and that new minarets would no longer be built.

Surprisingly, only 37% of Swiss voters had been reported ready to back the ban on new minarets - towers on mosques from where Muslims are called to prayer - just before the referendum, whereas 53% said they would vote against it.

The ban is believed to cause an outflow of Arab investment from Switzerland, but the authorities assured the Muslim community that the vote result is not directed against the country's Muslims, constituting some 400,000 people in the total population of 7.7 million.

The leader of the Green Party of Switzerland said the party could turn to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to contest the vote results.

"Switzerland's Muslims got not even a slap but a punch in the face," Ueli Leuenberger was quoted as saying by Swiss news agency ATS. "The vote outcome is a result of skillful propaganda."

SVP's Walter Wobmann, the leader of the initiative group that forced the referendum, said the country's nationals had long been silently discontent with the construction of minarets but had their say on Sunday.

"The vote results show the Swiss do not want minarets or Sharia laws in their country," he said.

Earlier, Wobmann told Reuters: "People may practice their religion, that is no problem," and added that his group just wanted to stop "political Islam" from gaining ground in Switzerland.

PARIS, November 29 (RIA Novosti)