Kouchner criticises 'religious oppression' of Swiss minaret vote

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a radio interview on Monday that he was "shocked" by Switzerland's referendum vote to ban mosque minarets.


AFP - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Monday condemned Switzerland's referendum vote to ban mosque minarets as a show of intolerance and said the decision should be reversed.

"I am a bit shocked by this decision," Kouchner told RTL radio. "It is an expression of intolerance and I detest intolerance.


"I hope the Swiss will reverse this decision quickly," he added.

Swiss voters on Sunday approved by a majority of 57.5 percent a ban on minarets in a referendum that the Swiss justice minister said "reflects fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies."

The Swiss far-right had forced a referendum on the minarets which it said was the symbol of a "political-religious claim to power, which challenges fundamental rights."

Kouchner said "if we cannot build minarets that means that we are practising religious oppression".

"Is it really offensive that in a mountainous country there is a building that is a bit taller than the others?" he asked.

France has also been grappling with controversy over the construction of mosques, with the far-right mounting campaigns to prevent municipal councils from issuing building permits.

A French parliamentary inquiry is holding hearings on whether to ban the wearing of the full Islamic veil and the "burqa debate" has raised questions about how far France is willing to go to accommodate its own Muslim minority.

Asked if he was in favour of a burqa ban, Kouchner said he "didn't know."

The veil is a violation of the women's rights and restricts freedom, he said, adding: "I believe that we must reject it in government offices."

But he added: "Now in terms of wearing the burqa in the street, that is also a basic freedom."


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