European Union

A "Racist, Disrespectful and Dangerous Image"


Two years ago, I wrote a column about the Swiss People's Party (SVP) racially-tinged campaign to ban minarets and expel immigrants who commit crimes in Switzerland:

Expelling non-native criminals is hardly a novel policy prescription in Europe. But the SVP went a step further, demanding that the immediate families of criminals under 18-years-old also be deported, leading critics to compare it to the Nazi policy of Sippenhaft—kin liability. Nor is this the SVP's first brush with controversy. A previous ad campaign featured a black hand dipping into a box of Swiss passports (over 20 percent of the population is foreign born), and a recent SVP proposal to ban the construction of minarets has roiled opposition politicians and activists. (Polling data shows that almost half the population supports the minaret ban).

The SVP is still the largest party in the country, and still agitating against the building of minarets in major Swiss cities, an issue that will be settled by referendum next month. But their latest campaign poster urging peoples that minarets be forbidden by law has been branded racist by authorities in Basel and Lausann, both of whom banned the poster from being displayed on city billboards. It is, local politicians say, a "racist, disrespectful and dangerous image." The city council of Zurich approved the posters as protected speech. From the BBC:

Zurich city council said on Thursday that although it disapproved of the "negative and dangerous" poster, it had to be accepted as part of political free speech ahead of the 29 November national referendum.

The city followed the examples of Geneva, Lucerne and Winterthur, who earlier also gave the green light to the use of the SVP's advert.

Here is the offending poster: