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Switzerland May Ban Burqas as Lawmakers Vote ‘Down With Masks’

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Switzerland may ban facial veils, including the burqa worn by some Muslim women, after the country’s lower chamber of parliament backed a resolution called ’Down With the Masks!’

Today’s approval by 101 lawmakers to 77 with nine abstentions in Bern means the motion, proposed by Oskar Freysinger, a representative of the Swiss People’s Party, now passes to the upper house.

If Freysinger succeeds, Switzerland would follow the Netherlands, France, which proscribed veils in April, and Italy, where a 1975 terrorism law prohibits people from concealing their face to disguise their identity. Belgium’s parliament is also debating a ban. The SVP’s proposal would outlaw face coverings in government buildings, at demonstrations and on public transportation.

“In a time when people are feeling increasingly unsafe on our streets, more and more people are hiding themselves behind hoods, masks or full-body veils,” Freysinger wrote in the text of the motion. “That makes it impossible to identify them, especially in cases of violence.”

The SVP is the largest faction in the Swiss legislature. In 2007 it campaigned on an anti-immigration platform to win a bigger share of the vote.

Posters in Zurich promoting its bid in national elections, due on Oct. 23, depict a boot trampling a Swiss flag and the slogan “stop mass immigration.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Leigh Baldwin in Zurich at lbaldwin3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Angela Cullen at acullen8@bloomberg.net

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