Switzerland to vote on ´burqa ban´ plan

Geneva: Switzerland votes Sunday on whether to ban full facial coverings in public places, despite women in Islamic full-face veils being an exceptionally rare sight in Swiss streets.

Polls indicate a slim majority support the move, in a vote that comes after years of debate following similar bans in other European countries -- and in some Muslim-majority states.

The Swiss are voting on the publicly triggered proposal "Yes to a ban on full facial coverings".

It does not mention the burqa or the niqab -- which leaves the eyes uncovered -- but there is no doubt what the debate is about.

Campaign posters reading "Stop radical Islam!" and "Stop extremism!", featuring a woman in a black niqab, have been plastered around Swiss cities.

Rival posters read: "No to an absurd, useless and Islamophobic ´anti-burqa´ law".

The ban would mean that nobody could cover their face completely in public -- whether in shops or the open countryside.

There would be exceptions, including for places of worship.

"It´s a question of civilisation. Free men and women present themselves with uncovered faces," said Yes campaign spokesman Jean-Luc Addor, of the populist right-wing Swiss People´s Party (SVP).

"It is an extreme form of Islam," he told AFP.

"Fortunately, there are not many" burqa-wearing women in Switzerland, he acknowledged, stressing though that "when a problem exists, we deal with it before it gets out of control."

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