tIn a surprise result, Swiss voters yesterday approved a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets, the tall spires on Islamic mosques from which the call to prayer is issued five times a day. The initiative was approved 57.5 to 42.5 percent by some 2.67 million voters. Only four of 26 cantons, or states, opposed it, granting the double approval that makes it part of the Swiss constitution.
tThe ban had been proposed by far-right political forces, and was denounced in the run-up to the vote both by the government and by a wide cross-section of religious leaders – including the Catholic bishops’ conference in Switzerland, which had issued a statement warning that “fear is a poor counselor.”
Passage of the measure is considered the clearest expression to date of mounting anti-Islamic backlash in Europe, fueled by rising levels of immigration. Though counts vary, some analysts predict the overall Muslim population will level off at 15 percent of the European total.