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Zurich gives go-ahead to poster with 'racist image of Islam' ahead of Swiss vote on allowing minarets at mosques



By Mail Foreign Service

Last updated at 10:49 PM on 08th October 2009



Zurich city council said yesterday that a poster showing missile-like minarets on a Swiss flag can be displayed ahead of a national referendum on whether to ban the building of minarets at mosques in Switzerland.

Zurich followed Lucerne and Geneva in arguing that the posters, which also feature a veiled woman with 'menacing eyes', were protected by free speech.

Basel and Lausanne have banned them saying they paint a 'racist, disrespectful and dangerous image' of Islam.


The posters, which urge a ban on the building of minarets, are part of a campaign by the nationalist Swiss People's Party.



article-1219048-06C00F9A000005DC-817_468x631.jpg 'Dangerous': This poster, which shows a woman in a burka and a Swiss flag with minarets that resemble missiles springing out of it, is being used by the rightwing People's Party (SVP) in its anti-minaret campaign


Zurich city council said it disapproved of the posters - which also feature a veiled woman with what could be seen as menacing eyes - because they portrayed Islam as 'threatening, negative and dangerous'.

But officials said the posters had to be accepted as part of political free speech in the run-up to the November 29 vote.

The Swiss Federal Commission Against Racism said yesterday it viewed the billboards as an attack on all Muslims in Switzerland.

'This is a further step toward a dangerous polarization of the political debate,' the commission said.







The posters argue that the construction of new minarets should be banned because they are a symbol of Islamic political conquest rather than religious freedom.


So far, there are four minarets in Switzerland.

A poll published today in Zurich daily Tages-Anzeiger showed 51.3 per cent of those questioned said they would reject the proposed ban.


Some 34.9 per cent of voters supported the proposal, while 13.7 per cent were undecided.


The random survey by Swiss-based pollsters Isopublic was conducted among 1,007 eligible voters in the German- and French-speaking parts of Switzerland. The margin of error was given as 3.2 per cent.


article-1219048-00B7590900000259-73_468x306.jpg A view of what minarets actually look like, at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul (file photo)


Henri-Maxime Khedoud, a Geneva resident and spokesman for the Swiss Association of Secular Muslims, said the posters were an attempt to play on voters' fear of Islam.

'They give the impression that we are trying to impose sharia law like in Saudi Arabia, but this is not true,' he said. 'Most Muslims in Switzerland come from Europe.'

The Alpine country saw a large influx of Muslim refugees from former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, and now has over 310,000 Muslim residents, or about four per cent of the population - more than in Britain, where Muslims form 2.7 per cent of the population, according to a recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion.


Khedoud said Switzerland's Muslims were most concerned about everyday racism, not a lack of minarets. 'The problem for us is integration and finding work for our children,' he said.

Nevertheless, the association plans to sue the People's Party ahead of the vote, Khedoud said.

The party caused an international outcry two years ago with a poster showing white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag.


The posters were part of a campaign to deport criminal foreigners, including minors and their families.


A vote on that proposal has yet to be scheduled.

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