A year ago I wrote an article here on Muslimah Media Watch about Swiss headscarf bans and mentioned while sharing the link on Facebook that “It is 2015 and I am still writing about this.” It is now 2016, and I am STILL writing about Switzerland and populist fringe politicians trying to crap on Muslims via policing their clothing.
After the Swiss People’s Party’s crushing loss in a recent referendum aimed at the expulsion of criminal foreigners (the short version: the referendum text was poorly worded and would have kicked out some otherwise law-abiding foreigners such as myself for things like traffic fines), groups on the right are trawling the bottom of the political barrel yet again to cook up some populist drama. The cantonal-level ban proposed in Valais I wrote about last year (link above) was submitted with more than the required number of signatures just last month, so that little project is gaining steam.
A Swiss People’s Party (of course) MP from Solothurn, Walter Wobmann, is behind the “Ja zum Verhüllingsverbot/Oui à l’interdiction de se dissumuler le visage” initiative, which is in the signature collection phase. He is part of the Egerkinger Committee, our very special friends behind the minaret referendum of 2009, which was covered by MMW in English here (with my feelings after the vote in French here). So in other words, these people know what they are doing and are very well organized and they probably have it in for Muslims all in the name of freedom of religion, dontcha know. In an excess of classiness, Mr. Wobmann went to the Bundesplatz in Bern (right in front of the Swiss Parliament building) to collect signatures with his squad dressed up in various headcoverings (the ostensible goal of his initiative), including a couple of guys dressed up in a burqa. I don’t have enough bandwith or space in this article to explain why dudes dressed in a burqa is messed up on several different levels, if you don’t think it is messed up, go read something and educate yourself.
The difference between this initiative and the one in Valais is that Mr. Wobmann’s initiative is at the federal level. He has until September 2017 to collect 100,000 signatures (note that Oskar Freysinger, one of the talking heads of the minaret referendum, is one of the signatories mentioned in the Federal Gazette in the previous link, as is Lukas Reimann, also part of that campaign and equally as infamous for generally shitting on Muslims). Considering the minaret referendum got just as many signatures, and wound up passing should show that this is serious business with, sadly, the “right” people involved.
But referendums really the way to go in Switzerland when it comes to Muslim issues? Especially on such wasted topics like minarets and headscarves? Especially when Islamophobia has gone beyond easy political capital, it has been seven years since the minaret vote and beating the dead Muslim horse is getting old. It feels too cheap.
In a slightly eerie note, the “spiritual leader” of the Swiss People’s Party Christoph Blocher, in a moment of lucidity, rightfully mentioned that with two party members in the Swiss executive (as well as a good amount of seats in Parliament), that as “initiatives are instruments of the opposition”, the party can afford to pump the brakes on referendums and focus on shaping policy at the legislative and executive levels. But I don’t know which is worse- silly referendums that pass one time out of two, or actual legislation and policy targeted at and discriminating against Muslims, especially Muslim women, who are marginalized enough.