PARIS — Voters in Switzerland decided Sunday to ban the building of minarets, in a referendum that showed an unexpected level of resentment against Muslim immigrants in a country long known for discretion and tolerance.
Opinion polls in recent months had indicated that a majority of voters would reject the measure, fearful of an impact on the country’s reputation and ability to do business in the Muslim world. But official results on Sunday showed a surprisingly strong 57.5 percent of those voting endorsed it, against 42.5 percent who opposed.
The ballot was the latest sign of a backlash against Muslim immigrants in Western Europe, where Christian voters appear increasingly eager to preserve their traditional ways in the face of expanded Muslim populations.
The Swiss federal council said four existing minarets would not be affected by the vote, and it specified that Muslim residents of the tiny Alpine country would still be allowed to build mosques and practice their religion. But construction of new minarets, the towers alongside mosques from which Muslims are called to prayer by Koranic chants, “is forbidden in Switzerland from now on,” it said in a communique.
It’s hard to see how this is going to do anything but foster resentment among Muslims in Switzerland.