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30.11.09

Swiss voters have approved a right-wing initiative banning construction of new minarets attached to mosques.

The controversial measure has been backed by over 55 percent of the electorate.

Turnout for the weekend referendum was about 55 percent.

The nation's tradition of tolerance is now under scrutiny after the right-wing backers of the proposal encouraged the vote by calling minarets symbols of militant Islam.

http://www.funonthenet.in/images/stories/forwards/switzerland/switzerland11.JPGSwitzerland, a country of seven million, is home to around 400,000 Muslims, mainly from Turkey and the Balkans.

While there are already four minarets in Switzerland, the campaign to ban them became part of a campaign which heightened religious tensions.

Officials of the Swiss People's Party said they had no problem with the construction of mosques in Switzerland, but said minarets, not being obligatory in Islam, were politically symbolic, therefore violating the Swiss constitution.

Muslim councils in return said those supporting the minaret ban were mounting a fear campaign that could drive wealthy Muslims away from banking in Switzerland and violate EU freedom of expression laws.Picture of City Tower, Medieval Town, Lucerne, Switzerland - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com

The growth of Islam across western Europe has raised concerns among non-Muslims about Islamic influence on local cultures. There have been protests against building new mosques in many countries.

The proposal to ban minarets in Switzerland will now result in an amendment to the Swiss constitution.

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