Outlawed Burqas and China’s New Internet

Grind for September 28th, 2018
“He promised us that everything would be okay. I was a child, but I knew that everything would not be okay. That did not make my father a liar. It made him my father.”

– Jonathan Safran Foer

Hide And Seek

The Headline

Switzerland: St. Gallen votes to ban face-covering veils

The Grind

The Swiss canton of St. Gallen voted Sunday to ban face-covering veils (AKA burqas) in public.

Roughly two-thirds of voters supported the measure, but turnout was low at 36%. St. Gallen’s government opposed the ban, which has already been implemented in the canton of Ticino.

According to local lawmaker Basil Oberholzer, it is unclear exactly what penalties offenders will face – as it will be up to police to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the face covering is a threat to public safety or religious peace.

“[This] is a symbol of what freedom you grant to people, and in this regard the result is disappointing,” said Oberholzer.

The Implication

Several jurisdictions throughout Europe have banned face coverings following the massive influx of Muslim refugees, but the vote in Switzerland is somewhat surprising considering the low level of religious tension there as well as the small Muslim population (about 5% of 8.5 million people).

Swiss voters in 2017 amassed enough signatures to hold a nationwide referendum on the issue, but a date has yet to be set. The federal council, which opposes the ban, prefers the issue be left to each canton to decide.

A nationwide ban on face-covering veils “would make it impossible to take into account the individual cantons’ differing sensitivities, in particular removing their ability to determine for themselves how they wish to treat tourists from Arab states who wear facial coverings,” said the federal council in June.

The ban on face-covering veils certainly violates freedom of religion – but that’s an American right, not a European right. At the end of the day, the ban is a reasonable reaction to the influx of Muslim refugees. People are concerned, and rightfully so. I expect the countrywide referendum to succeed.

Personal Opinion

The Headline

Former Google CEO predicts China will soon have its own Internet

The Grind

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicts the Internet will fracture into two separate networks within the next 15 years – one controlled by China and the other controlled by the United States.

“I think the most likely scenario now is…a bifurcation into a Chinese-led Internet and a non-Chinese Internet led by America,” said Schmidt Wednesday at a gathering of investors in San Francisco.

The Details

“If you look at China, and I was just there, the scale of the companies that are being built, the services being built, the wealth that is being created is phenomenal,” continued Schmidt.

Alongside that wealth is an unprecedented campaign of censorship and surveillance that includes millions of CCTV cameras and the infiltration of social media. Last weekend, Beijing signed a deal with the Vatican that gives it the power to appoint future bishops.

“There’s a real danger that along with those products and services comes a different leadership regime from government, with censorship, controls, etc.,” said Schmidt.

These concerns are not shared by Google’s current CEO, Sundar Pichai, who continues to seek cooperation with the Chinese tech industry.

Did you know… About 60 million years ago, there was a species of turtle that was so large and had such powerful jaws that it could have devoured a crocodile.