30 November 2009 An independent United Nations expert on religious freedom today voiced regret at the Swiss vote to ban the construction of new minarets, stating that such a prohibition clearly discriminates against Muslims.
“I have deep concerns at the negative consequences that the outcome of the vote will have on the freedom of religion or belief of members of the Muslim community in Switzerland,” Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, stated in a news release.
“Indeed, a ban on minarets amounts to an undue restriction of the freedom to manifest one’s religion and constitutes a clear discrimination against members of the Muslim community in Switzerland,” she added, also noting that the UN Human Rights Committee stated a month ago that such a ban is contrary to the country’s obligations under international human rights law.
“This vote reminds us that no societies are immune to religious intolerance,” stressed Ms. Jahangir, adding that “it is therefore more than ever necessary to continue raising awareness and educating people about religious diversity, enabling all societies to adopt an enlightened and progressive attitude towards the beliefs of other communities.”
Doing so will help to eliminate the grounds for “irrational fears” towards Muslims, which have been exploited in Switzerland for political purposes,” she warned.
The Special Rapporteur urged authorities in Switzerland, which has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to take the necessary measures to fully protect the right to freedom of religion or belief for the Muslim community.
Ms. Jahangir, who carries out her work in an independent and unpaid capacity, reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.
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