Muslims face fines up to £8,000 for wearing burkas in Switzerland
A controversial Swiss law prohibiting Islamic dress has been used to fine a Muslim convert and a businessman, who protested the ban.
The rule, which came into effect in Ticino on Friday, was voted in by referendum and outlaws face-covering headgear.
Nora Illi and 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 Mr Nekkaz, a French-Algerian national, £180 (CHF230). Ms Illi, from Zurich, who converted to Islam when she was 19, will receive a penalty of up to £7,700 (CHF10,000).
In 2011, Mr Nekkaz set up a million euro fund to help women all over the world who chose to wear a veil or burka where it is not allowed.
As the protest was being carried out by Ms Illi and Mr Nekkaz, local government officials collected signatures calling for a nationwide ban on the burka.
The law, which began as a people’s initiative, received 65 per cent of the vote in Ticino in 2013. The majority of Ticino are Roman Catholic.
It was approved by the local government in November, after the country’s Parliament ruled it did not contradict Swiss federal law.
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.