Anti-Muslim poster stirs controversy ahead of Switzerland naturalisation referendum

Anti-Muslim poster stirs controversy ahead of Switzerland naturalisation referendum
The hardline Swiss party again turns to 'the advertising guru of Europe's new right' to scare voters into opposing a referendum on an expedited citizenship process for third generation immigrants.
2 min read
11 February, 2017
Alexander Segert is described as 'the advertising guru of Europe's new right' [AFP]
With Switzerland heading to the polls on Sunday for a referendum on whether to make naturalisation for third-generation immigrants easier, an anti-Muslim poster by a far-right group is causing quite a stir among voters.

Featuring a woman's shadowed eyes staring out from a black niqab, the poster's tagline urges voters to reject "uncontrolled naturalisation".

Critics of the ad campaign, which was commissioned by the Committee Against Facilitated Citizenship, argue that it is simply a brazen appeal to those who fear that more Muslims will become Swiss.

"That is exactly what they are trying to (do)", said Pius Walker, who heads the Zurich-based advertising agency Walker AG.

"It is a very, very frightening thing that is going on here."

The right-wing people's party [SVP], whose members were involved in the commissioning of the campaign, has said the measure will open the door to more Muslim immigration.

"In one or two generations, who will these third generation foreigners be?" SVP lawmaker Jean-Luc Addor wrote in an opinion article on the party's website.

"They will be born of the Arab Spring, they will be from sub-Saharan Africa, the Horn of Africa, Syria or Afghanistan," he warned.

Similar ads were produced by the SVP for Switzerland's 2009 referendum on minarets [AFP]

The majority of Swiss lawmakers and the country's government, meanwhile, back the proposal to make naturalisation easier for the grandchildren of immigrants.

"In the end these are young people who live here, who were born here, their parents were born here, the grandparents probably came here, these are people who are at home, the only difference is, they do not have a red (Swiss) passport," said Simonetta Sommaruga, head of the Federal Department of Justice.

According to statistics, around 25,000 people in Switzerland are third generation immigrants - roughly 60 percent of whom are Italian.

Recent polls suggest that the "Yes" to fast-track citizenship campaign will win around two-thirds of the vote. Observers, however, have been hesitant to rule out an upset, with the "No" campaign having picked up around
10 percentage points since campaigning began.

As was demonstrated in the country's 2009 referendum decision to outlaw the construction of new mosque minarets, the impact of Muslims on Switzerland's national character is a topic that many have strong views on.

The SVP ran a similar ad campaign during the 2009 referendum, which was also created by the Zurich-based agency Goal AG, whose chief Alexander Segert has been described by the Financial Times as "the advertising guru of Europe's new right."