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Swiss ban on minarets stirs anger

Associated Press / December 1, 2009

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GENEVA - A top Swiss official said yesterday that voter approval of a ban on minarets next to mosques could be struck down in court, as critics at home and abroad swiftly condemned the vote, saying it undermined the country’s secular image.

Legal analysts have questioned whether the ban on the Islamic towers used for the call to prayer is compatible with Switzerland’s constitution and international human rights law.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said it would come into force immediately, but indicated it could be overturned.

“The ban contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights,’’ Zurich daily Blick cited Widmer-Schlumpf as saying. Switzerland currently presides over the European Court of Human Rights, which rules on breaches of the convention.

The vote brings the focus of a Europe-wide debate over Islam and immigration to Switzerland, and is a serious slap in the face for the government, which campaigned against it.

France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said he was “a bit scandalized’’ by the vote.

“I hope that the Swiss will go back on this decision rather quickly,’’ Kouchner said on France’s RTL radio. “It is an expression of intolerance, and I detest intolerance.’’