By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer Alexander G. Higgins, Associated Press Writer – Sun Nov 29, 6:40 pm ET
GENEVA – Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on minarets on Sunday, barring construction of the iconic mosque towers in a surprise vote that put Switzerland at the forefront of a European backlash against a growing Muslim population.
Muslim groups in Switzerland and abroad condemned the vote as biased and anti-Islamic. Business groups said the decision hurt Switzerland's international standing and could damage relations with Muslim nations and wealthy investors who bank, travel and shop there.
"The Swiss have failed to give a clear signal for diversity, freedom of religion and human rights," said Omar Al-Rawi, integration representative of the Islamic Denomination in Austria, which said its reaction was "grief and deep disappointment."
About 300 people turned out for a spontaneous demonstration on the square outside parliament, holding up signs saying, "That is not my Switzerland," placing candles in front of a model of a minaret and making another minaret shape out of the candles themselves.
"We're sorry," said another sign. A young woman pinned to her jacket a piece of paper saying, "Swiss passport for sale."
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