News

Top UN Human Rights Official Calls Minaret Ban Discriminatory

The U.N. High Commissioner believes this action risks putting Switzerland on a collision course with its international human-rights obligations

Multimedia

Audio

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is condemning the Swiss law banning minarets as clearly discriminatory.  The U.N. official calls the ban deeply divisive and worrisome. 

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says she regrets Switzerland's ban on building minarets and calls the move a thoroughly unfortunate step for Switzerland. 

Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, says the high commissioner believes this action risks putting the country on a collision course with its international human-rights obligations.  

"The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has said she hesitates to condemn a democratic vote," Colville said. "But, she has no hesitation at all in condemning the anti-foreigner scare mongering which has characterized political campaigns in a number of countries including Switzerland, which helps produce results like this."  

A referendum to ban the construction of new minarets in Switzerland was passed by 57.5 percent of the Swiss population.  The result of Sunday's vote has caused an outcry from Muslim countries.

The Swiss government opposed the initiative.  Nevertheless, some politicians are defending the action by claiming the motion was not targeting Islam or Muslims.  Others claim banning minarets would actually improve integration. 

Colville says the High Commissioner regards these claims as extraordinary.

"Politics based on xenophobia or intolerance is extremely disquieting, wherever it occurs," Colville said. "Sometimes it is channeled against adherents of a particular religion, as in this case.  Sometimes it is channeled against people of different racial or ethnic origin.  It is corrosive, and beyond a certain point becomes socially disruptive and even dangerous."  

Pillay said blatantly xenophobic posters used in several recent political campaigns targeting asylum-seekers, migrants or foreigners in general are an extremely worrying trend.

The referendum does not affect Switzerland's four existing minarets, nor does it impede the ability of Muslims to practice their religion. 

But the Swiss government acknowledges its concern as to how the ban will affect the country's image and about its possible economic repercussions.  The government fears wealthy Arab tourists might decide not to come to Switzerland, and it agrees its role as a neutral mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be compromised.
 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs