BERN, Switzerland, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- An independent U.N. expert on religious freedoms Monday said the Swiss vote to ban construction of new minarets discriminates against Muslims.
"I have deep concerns at the negative consequences that the outcome of the vote will have on the freedom of religion or belief of members of the Muslim community in Switzerland," Asma Jahangir, special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said in a release, joining other human rights advocates decrying the vote.
Exit polls indicated 59 percent Swiss voters Sunday approved the ban on the building of minarets, a feature of Islamic mosques.
Supporters of the ban said minarets represent the growth of an ideology and a legal system of Muslim Sharia law incompatible with Swiss law, media outlets reported. Opponents said the ban failed to recognize the country's religious tolerance and would create a backlash from the worldwide Muslim community.
Nearly 400,000 Muslims live in Switzerland, which has just four minarets.
"Indeed, a ban on minarets amounts to an undue restriction of the freedom to manifest one's religion and constitutes a clear discrimination against members of the Muslim community in Switzerland," Jahangir said. "This vote reminds us that no societies are immune to religious intolerance."