World

GENEVA – Muslim women in Switzerland will now face huge fines for wearing a full-face veil after a ban on burqas and niqabs came into effect last week.

A Swiss woman who converted to Islam and a French-Algerian businessman have already been fined for defying the law after it came into force in the Ticino canton, The Week reported. The pair were publicly protesting the ban.

Anyone caught wearing a veil can be fined up to €9,200 (£7,890) under the new regulations.

Of the 350,000 inhabitants in the Italian speaking area about 70 per cent are Roman Catholic and there are barely any Muslim residents.

But it is feared the ban will affect Muslim tourists, who each year spend around 40,000 nights in the city of Lugano alone.

The hotel industry makes approximately 19 million CHF, or Swiss Franc, a year from tourists from the Middle East.

Ticino Turismo, the tourist information centre, said the wish of the sovereignty would be “respected” but it is feared veiled women will avoid the area altogether.

However it was also suggested guests from the Gulf States make up only 2.1 per cent of overnight stays.

Despite concerns that the move will effect tourism, local government officials will not oppose the strong vote from the public.

A national committee has been set up and is collecting signatures to expand the ban across the rest of Switzerland.

Among supporters are politicians of the right wing Swiss People’s Party and the right populist Lega die Ticinesi, who had already supported the ban in Tessin.

Norman Gobbi, Lega politician and director of justice for Tessin, said several tourists will shun the area and stay in nearby Como in Italy instead.

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Bern has warned its citizens visiting Switzerland this summer to be careful not to break the law.