Calmy-Rey, concerned
Photo: AFP
Minarets in Switzerland
Photo: AFP

Swiss government 'very concerned' over minaret ban

Foreign minister says limitations on coexistence of different cultures, religions 'endangers our security'; stresses ban only on new minarets, not on new mosques

The Swiss foreign minister says the government is "very concerned" over a weekend referendum that declares the building of any new minarets in Switzerland illegal.


Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said Tuesday that limitations on the coexistence of different cultures and religions 'also endangers our security.' She said provocations risk inflaming extremism.


But Calmy-Rey stressed that the ban was only on new minarets, not on new mosques, and said Swiss Muslims were well integrated into society.


She said the decision would not change Swiss foreign policy and that the country would continue to maintain close relations with Muslim nations.


Calmy-Rey spoke during a meeting of foreign ministers of the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.


UN slams 'discriminatory' ban

Meanwhile, the United Nations called the ban on new minarets "clearly discriminatory" and deeply divisive.


UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said Sunday's referendum to outlaw the construction of minarets in Switzerland was the product of "anti-foreigner scare-mongering."


The criticism from Pillay, whose office is based in the Swiss city of Geneva, comes after an outcry from Muslim countries, Switzerland's European neighbors and human rights watchdogs since 57.5 percent of the Swiss population ratified the ban.


The Swiss government opposed the initiative but has sought to defend it as an action not against Islam or Muslims, but one aimed at improving integration and fighting extremism.


"These are extraordinary claims when the symbol of one religion is targeted," Pillay said in a statement. She said she was saddened to see xenophobic arguments gain such traction with Swiss voters despite their "long-standing support of fundamental human rights."


פרסום ראשון: 12.01.09, 14:43
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