Swiss canton becomes second to ban burqas in public

Voters in the northeastern canton demanded tightening the law to punish those who cover their faces in public. (Reuters)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Swiss canton becomes second to ban burqas in public

  • Full-face coverings such as niqabs and burqas are a polarizing issue across Europe
  • The clothing has already been banned in France and Denmark

ZURICH: Voters in St. Gallen on Sunday approved by a two-thirds majority a ban on facial coverings such as the burqa, becoming the second Swiss canton to do so.
Full-face coverings such as niqabs and burqas are a polarizing issue across Europe, with some arguing that they symbolize discrimination against women and should be outlawed. The clothing has already been banned in France and Denmark.
Under the Swiss system of direct democracy, voters in the northeastern canton demanded tightening the law to punish those who cover their faces in public and thus “threaten or endanger public security or religious or social peace.”
The regional government, which had opposed the measure, now has to implement the result of the vote, which drew turnout of around 36 percent.
Switzerland’s largest Islamic organization, the Islamic Central Council, recommended women continue to cover their faces. It said it would closely monitor the implementation of the ban and consider legal action if necessary.
The Swiss federal government in June opposed a grassroots campaign for a nationwide ban on facial coverings.
The Swiss cabinet said individual cantons should decide on the matter, but it will nevertheless go to a nationwide vote after activists last year collected more than the required 100,000 signatures to trigger a referendum.
Two-thirds of Switzerland’s 8.5 million residents identify as Christians. But its Muslim population has risen to 5 percent, largely because of immigrants from former Yugoslavia.
One Swiss canton, Italian-speaking Ticino, already has a similar ban, while two others have rejected it.


US general shot in last week’s Taliban attack

Airman 1st Class Italia Sampson closes a vehicle holding a transfer case containing the remains of Army Sgt. James A. Slape at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. (AP)
Updated 22 October 2018
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US general shot in last week’s Taliban attack

  • Smiley was assigned in the summer to lead a Kandahar-based command with a mission to train and advise Afghan security forces

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon has confirmed that US Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smiley was shot in a Taliban attack that killed two Afghan leaders in Kandahar province last week.
US military spokesman Cmdr. Grant W. Neeley provided no other details. The Washington Post reported earlier Sunday that Smiley was recovering after suffering at least one gunshot wound while he was inside the Kandahar governor’s compound.
The Taliban assassinated two top provincial officials Thursday in an attack on a security conference attended by the top US military commander in the country, Gen. Scott Miller. He escaped injury.
Smiley was assigned in the summer to lead a Kandahar-based command with a mission to train and advise Afghan security forces and help with counterterrorism operations in southern Afghanistan.