How Switzerland Just Rejected Islamophobia and Bigotry

February 12th 2017

Willie Burnley Jr.

The citizens of Switzerland voted overwhelmingly Sunday in favor of a referendum to ease the process of gaining citizenship for a select slice of their country’s population.

The amendment to the Swiss constitution, which won by 60.4 percent, was a rebuke to an Islamophobic campaign by a far-right political party.

The referendum will allow "third-generation immigrants" — that is, the grandchildren of immigrants to Switzerland — to be fast-tracked in their citizenship process. Unlike in the United States, such individuals do not become citizens simply by being born in Switzerland.

While the amendment was being debated, the far-right nationalist Swiss People’s Party distributed posters of a woman in a black niqab with a caption that urged voters to reject "uncontrolled naturalization."

Party member Jean-Luc Addor argued that, "in a generation or two," third-generation immigrants would be "born of the Arab Spring, they [would] be from sub-Saharan Africa, the Horn of Africa, Syria, or Afghanistan." In other words, to SVP, the passage of the referendum represented an existential threat to Switzerland and its cultural values.

Most of the roughly 25,000 third-generation immigrants in Switzerland who qualify for this expedited process are neither Arab, African, nor adherents of Islam.

In fact, most of those affected by the referendum are Italians, followed by people from the Balkans region and from Turkey — the last of which does have a population that is mostly Muslim.

Third-generation immigrants will still be required to have been born in Switzerland, be 25 years old or younger, have gone to school there for at least five years, speak one of their national languages — all of which originate in Europe — and "share Swiss cultural values."