A Muslim businessman and a convert have been fined £180 and £7,700 respectively after protesting the ban on Islamic clothing passed by a controversial Swiss law.
The rule was voted in by referendum and outlaws face-covering headgear. It came into effect in the Italian-speaking region in southern Switzerland, Ticino on Friday.
Nora Illi from Zurich and French-Algerian national, Rachid Nekkaz, who are prominent campaigners for the rights of Muslims, walked in the streets of Locarno in full Islamic dress soon after the rule was introduced.
They were stopped by police officers, who fined Nekkaz £180 (CHF230) and Illi, who converted to Islam when she was 19, a penalty of up to £7,700 (CHF10,000).
Georgio Ghiringhelli, who drew up the proposal said the ruling would send a message to “Islamic fundamentalists” who he claimed were in the country.
“Those who want to integrate are welcome, irrespective of their religion, but those who rebuff our values and aim to build a parallel society based on religious laws, and want to place it over our society, are not welcome,” he said.
In 2011, Nekkaz set up a million euro fund to help women all over the world who chose to wear a veil or burqa where it is not allowed.
As the protest was being carried out by Illi and Nekkaz, local government officials collected signatures calling for a nationwide ban on the burqa. The law, which began as a people’s initiative, received 65 per cent of the vote in Ticino in 2013. The majority of Ticino’s population is Roman Catholic. The law was approved by the local government in November, after the country’s Parliament ruled it did not contradict Swiss federal law.
Switzerland’s population of eight million people includes an estimated 350,000 Muslims. Swiss law on integration has resulted in fines for Muslims a number of times.
In May, two Muslim students faced $5,000 fine for refusing to shake hands with female teachers in the country. Last month, a Swiss court fined a Muslim man for cancelling his daughters’ swimming lessons.
Switzerland however, is not the only European country to have laws against the Islamic dress. In May, the Dutch government implemented a partial ban on wearing an Islamic face-covering veil in schools, hospitals and on public transport, with fines of up to £300 for anyone caught flouting the law. Last month, Bulgaria approved a new legislation that imposes a ban on the niqab in public places.
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