Swiss Could Ban Burqa After Minarets

Following last November's controversial ban against minarets, Switzerland is now moving towards a ban on the burqa, much like several of its European counterparts.

Earlier this month, a Swiss cantonal parliament voted 89 to 33 to advance a state initiative against veils that cover the body and face, which are traditionally worn by Muslim women who adhere to sharia law.

The measure's proponents called the burqa a "potent symbol of the dominance of men over women," according to the Swiss paper Tazes Anzeiger.

Switzerland's ban on minarets, or Muslim mosque towers, last year was the first act in what has become a European frenzy of legislative crackdowns against Muslim cultural symbols.

A French bill against the burqa was introduced in parliament yesterday after months of campaigning from President Nicolas Sarkozy and others, who have said that the garb is "not welcome" in the country.

The French measure carries stiff penalties for offenders, including a $188 fine for veiled women, and a $20,000 fine and/or a year in prison for men who force women to wear the garment.

In Belgium, a similar bill that passed the country's lower house is now waiting to be voted on by the Senate, although some negotiators have raised doubts about the measure's constitutionality.

Other European countries mulling a burqa ban include Italy, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands.

A proposed ban in Australia was shot down by legislators yesterday, with some negotiators criticizing the bill's proponent of stigmatizing Muslims.

"There is no urgency in spreading further fear and hatred in our community," said Islamic Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane, according to AFP.

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