WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings expressed today their concerns with results of a referendum in Switzerland that would ban construction of minarets in that country.
“The Swiss vote to ban minarets is worrying for a number of reasons, including the fact the Swiss people have seen fit to limit the religious practice of one particular group. I trust the Swiss government will work swiftly to be sure the Swiss are not viewed as an intolerant people,” Chairman Cardin said.
“I hope the Swiss courts will overturn this referendum and that the Swiss government will double its efforts to implement anti-discrimination laws and have an open and honest dialogue about religious and ethnic tolerance,” Co-Chairman Hastings said. “If this ban on religious expression is allowed to stand, Switzerland will clearly be out of step with its OSCE commitments on freedom of religion and belief.”
The referendum, launched by the Swiss People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union, was backed by 57.5 percent of voters Sunday. The ban has been under fire by religious freedom and human rights groups.
The head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, expressed concern about the election result as well, saying the ban has the potential to create a “climate of intolerance against Muslims.”