By Bayram Altug
GENEVA, Switzerland (AA) – A second Swiss canton on Sunday voted in a referendum to ban the wearing of full Muslim face veils in public spaces.
Voters in the St. Gallen canton approved by a two-thirds majority a ban on burqas, according to local media.
“Turnout on Sunday was 35.8 percent, with a total of 73,830 people – out of a canton of some 500,000 – backing the measure,” reported SWI swissinfo, the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).
St. Gallen us the second canton in the country to introduce such a ban. In 2013, two-thirds of people in Italian-speaking Ticino in the country's south also voted for a ban which came into force in 2016.
Switzerland has 26 cantons, with Zurich — with over 1.5 million people — the most populous.
While the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) praised the measure, opponents blasted it as demagoguery, as it is already illegal in Switzerland to force a woman to wear a burka.
Under the ban, canton police will have the authority to decide if a face-covered person “threatens or endangers public safety or the religious or social peace,” according to SWI.
Fredy Fassler, who is in charge of security and justice in the canton, said that he was not surprised by the result, but added that it would have no effect, according to SWI.
“I’ve never seen anyone in a burka in St. Gallen,” he was quoted as saying.
He added that he couldn’t imagine the conditions of the ban ever being fulfilled, the website reported.
Switzerland’s approximately 420,000 Muslims make up about 5 percent of its total population of 8.37 million.
In 2017, the Swiss parliament rejected a nationwide burka ban proposal.