- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2013

Voters in a predominantly Italian area of Switzerland voted Sunday to ban full-face veils, a decision that has outraged the country’s Muslim community and Amnesty International, the Agence France-Presse reported.

Results showed that 65 percent of the electorate in the southern canton of Ticino backed a ban on face veils in public areas by any group.

The rule states that “no-one may mask or hide their face on the public highway, nor in places open to the public, except places of worship, nor those offering a public service.”

“No-one may require another person to cover their face for reasons of gender,” the policy adds.

“This is an historic vote for Ticino,” Giorgio Ghiringhelli of the Ticino populist party Il Guastafeste, told Switzerland’s Italian-language broadcaster, RSI. “And not just for Ticino, but also for Switzerland and abroad, where the Ticino example could spread.”

It is the first time that any of Switzerland’s 26 cantons has imposed such a ban, AFP reported. The new ban will added to Ticino’s constitution, making it tough to overturn.

Switzerland’s Central Islamic Council slammed the vote as “yet another loud expression of social Islamophobia.”

“We in the Council see this as part of a string of attempts to make life increasingly difficult for Muslims in Switzerland and to ban symbols of Islam from the public arena,” it said in a statement.

The human rights group Amnesty International also condemned the decision.

“Fear, and the creation of a problem where there isn’t one, have beaten reason and respect, to the detriment of the basic rights of the entire population,” the head of Amnesty’s Swiss section, Manon Schick, said in a statement.