Swiss Cities Divided Over Anti-Minaret Posters

October 8, 2009

Author: Frank Jordans

Source: Taiwan News

Wire Service: AP

Switzerland's biggest city said Thursday a poster showing missile-like minarets atop a Swiss flag can be displayed ahead of a national vote on whether to ban the construction of towers at Islamic prayer houses.

Zurich followed Lucerne and Geneva in arguing that the posters were protected by free speech, exposing a rift among Swiss cities after Basel and Lausanne earlier banned the billboards saying they painted a "racist, disrespectful and dangerous image" of Islam.

Zurich city council said it disapproved of the posters _ which also feature a veiled woman with what could be seen as menacing eyes _ because they portrayed Islam as "threatening, negative and dangerous." But officials said the posters had to be accepted as part of political free speech in the run-up to the Nov. 29 vote.

The Swiss Federal Commission Against Racism said Wednesday it viewed the billboards as an attack on all Muslims in Switzerland.

"This is a further step toward a dangerous polarization of the political debate," the commission said.