Swiss region set to ban full-face veil

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Switzerland’s Italian-speaking region was on course Sunday to ban the wearing of a full-face veil, projected results from a referendum showed.

The Swiss Italian-language broadcaster RSI said a partial count of votes in the canton of Ticino showed that 65 percent of the electorate backed the measure to ban the covering of faces in public areas by any group, including Muslims.

Widely dubbed the “anti-burka” initiative, the measure does not single out Muslims directly.

But it was the brainchild of activists known for their criticism of Islamists, and has been slammed by Switzerland’s Muslim community and Amnesty International.

Referenda are the bedrock of Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, with citizen-campaigners able to force votes if they collect enough signatures from voters.

If the measure passes it will be the first time that any of Switzerland’s 26 cantons -- the equivalent of U.S. states -- has imposed such a ban.

In 2009, Switzerland faced criticism from Muslims and supporters of religious freedom over a nationwide referendum which led to a ban on the construction of new mosque minarets beyond the four already built in the country.

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