Swiss state bans burqa and niqab

The niqab has become a political football

Wearing a burqa in public in the Swiss canton of Ticino will be an offence punishable by a fine of up to 10,000 francs (£6,500).

The state parliament approved a law banning the garment, which covers the body from head to feet and is worn in public by women in many Muslim countries.

Citizens in the Italian-speaking canton in the south of Switzerland supported the ban in a referendum in September 2013, with around two in three voters backing the move.

The Ticino government had wanted the ban on burqas and niqabs (face veils) to also apply to other forms of head covering that hide the face, such as masks, worn by demonstrators and balaclavas.

But MPs voted for a law that applies only to the wearing of Muslim veils to avoid putting that on the same level as hooligans and masked demonstrators.

The law makes no exceptions for tourists.

People visiting Ticino will be informed at airports and by customs at the Italian border that is unlawful in the canton to hide your face.

Around 40,000 visitors from the Middle East traveled to Ticino last year, a tourism market that is growing.

The Ticino law was inspired by a similar law in force in France, which was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in July 2014.

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