The Swiss government opposed on Wednesday a grassroots campaign for a nationwide ban on facial coverings in public that will prompt a binding referendum, the latest twist in a Europe-wide crackdown on burqas championed by anti-Muslim activists.
The Swiss cabinet said individual cantons should decide on the matter, which nevertheless will go to a nationwide vote under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy after activists last year gathered enough public support.
Measures against the wearing of Islamic veils have already been taken in Belgium, France, Denmark and Spain, among others, with the Netherlands passing its own ban this week.
The Swiss government suggested instead adopting laws that would prevent people from covering their faces when dealing with officials and punish anyone who forced women to conceal their faces with up to three years in jail.
“The government is aware that facial coverings can lead to problems. With its proposals it suggests targeted and specific legal measures in areas in which it has authority,” the cabinet said after a meeting.