A new ban on women wearing burkas has been implemented with full force in parts of Switzerland, where anyone covering their face a veil will be subject to over $10,000 in fines.
The move comes in the wake of Switzerland’s ruling that asserted students who refuse to shake a teacher’s hand will be fined up to $5,000.
Authorities in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino implemented the ban on July 1, stopping people from wearing the head-to-to garment in public buildings, including cafes and shops. Fines up to 10,000 Swiss Francs ($10,200) will be levied upon anyone who breaks the rule, although the fine for smaller transgressions will be closer to a 100 Swiss Francs ($102).
The Ticino government had originally wanted to extend the bans to tourists wearing masks and balaclavas, however the new law only applies to some Muslim women and makes no exceptions for Muslim women visiting the area.
The bill was passed despite the region being a tourist hotspot for Middle Eastern visitors.
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The Saudi Arabian embassy in Bern had earlier issued advice to its citizens.
“The embassy wishes to emphasize that the Ticino cantonal authorities in south eastern Switzerland have announced that as of July 1, 2016, they will start to enforce the burqa (niqab) ban in public places in the canton, including in Lugano, Locarno, Magadino, Bellinzona, Ascona and Mendrisio,” the embassy wrote in a statement. “As school holidays [in Saudi Arabia] are coming up, the embassy reminds all honorable citizens of the necessity to respect and conform to Swiss rules and regulations in order avoid all problems.”
The ban, which was imposed last Friday, has already claimed two victims: a Swiss woman, Nora Illi, who converted to Islam and a French-Algerian businessman, Rachid Nekkaz, who publicly opposed the ban in Locarno, an Italian speaking and predominantly Roman Catholic canton.
Nekkaz was fined 200 Swiss Francs ($205) while Illi will face a fine anywhere between 100 Swiss Francs ($102) to 10,000 Swiss Francs ($10,200).
Many Muslim women cover themselves head to toe because they believe it is a sign of modesty and it is their religious obligation to do so. However, Giorgio Ghiringhelli, who drew up the proposal, does not think that is the reason.
“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," said Ghiringhelli, who wants to send a message to “Islamist fundamentalists” which he claimed were spread across the country.
Amnesty International said the vote was a “black day for human rights in Ticino.”
Over 400,000 Muslims live in Switzerland, making up 5 percent of the country’s population.
A nationwide ban on burkas was first proposed in 2012 but was rejected by the Swiss parliament. The cantons of Basel, Bern, Schwyz, Solothurn and Fribourg have also rejected similar bans.