A threatening image dominates Switzerland’s streets in the form of a dark woman dressed in a Muslim niqab veil, looming over a Swiss flag covered with missile-like minarets with a call to vote “yes” in a referendum on Sunday to ban minarets on mosques here. The posters clearly seek to tap into the concerns of the country’s traditionally Christian majority about increased immigration from Muslim countries.
“I find the nature of these posters very provocative against the Islamic world. The presentation and the way the minarets are presented like rockets is unbelievable. Also the colours — with all the black — look very threatening,” says 34-year-old air traffic controller Judith Baumer. “I assume that it’s supposed to trigger strong emotions or fear in the population.”
The poster, described by the Swiss race commission as demonising Muslims and provoking religious tensions, has been banned in some cities but seems omnipresent in others. (Photo: Vote “yes” posters in Zurich’s main train station, 26 Oct 2009/Arnd Wiegmann)
Polls suggest the referendum could be close-run. With only a slim majority of Swiss questioned expressing opposition or a tendency to oppose a ban, turnout and currently undecided voters could yet sway the vote towards behind the “‘yes” campaign.
“It’s fine to build minarets in a Muslim country, not in Switzerland. I’m strictly against that,” says unemployed electrical fitter Rolf Waechtler. “People from abroad are ok with me, but I’m in favour of them putting minarets directly there: abroad.”