Swiss Italians Say No to the Burqa

The prettiest corner of Switzerland wasn’t exactly crawling with Muslim women, so it’s worth asking what happened.

LOCARNO—Even in Switzerland, most citizens don’t think much about Ticino. It’s the southernmost of the country’s 26 cantons—roughly equivalent to American states—and the only one that’s wholly Italian in language and culture. Only half a million of the eight million people in Switzerland are Italians, and about two-thirds of them live in Ticino.

For the country’s German-speaking majority, Ticino is Switzerland’s Sonnenstube (sun porch) due to the canton’s notably brighter and warmer climate than what prevails in most of this Alpine land. South of the Gotthard Pass that has divided Teutons from Latins for centuries, Ticino’s steep mountains ring the canton at heights surpassing 10,000 feet, their peaks remaining chilly even in the summer heat that prevails on the shores of the beautiful lakes that dot the scenery.

Ticino is one of Europe’s loveliest places, combining a very Italian dolce vita with trademark Swiss efficiency. Things work here in a timely fashion as they don’t always in neighboring Italy. It’s a minor miracle that Switzerland has made Italians work like Germans—while losing none of their fine food, wine and culture. Locals aren’t excessively fond of Swiss Germans—they find them stodgy—but they look down a bit on Italians across the border too, who never can quite seem to make their trains run on time. As they do in Ticino.

That said, not much exciting happens in Ticino. The canton seldom makes Swiss headlines—much less beyond this small country. About the only noteworthy thing that happens in Locarno, the canton’s second city, situated on lovely Lago Maggiore under the Alps, is the annual international film festival every August. Since 1946, that draws movie stars and therefore press. Not much else gets the international media to Locarno.

Suddenly, that’s changed. And the issue is one of the most hot-button ones in all of Europe, indeed across the West right now: the role of Islam in public life.

Read the rest at The Observer …