In a surprise vote on Sunday, the Swiss people moved to ban the construction of minarets, the tall spires traditionally attached to mosques. The vote has sparked accusations of "Islamophobia" as well as boycott fears, along with renewed debate about the challenges of Muslim assimilation in the West.

The result – 57.5 percent of voters favored the ban – went against earlier opinion polls showing support at below 35 percent. Sunday's "yes" vote was also supported by 22 out of the country's 26 cantons (provinces), meeting the legal requirement that a majority of cantons must back a referendum proposal for it to pass.

The outcome drew dismay from the government, which actively opposed the minaret ban, saying it said would violate international human rights norms and upset ties with Muslim countries.

"The government is disappointed that it was not possible to convince voters to reject the initiative," Economics Minister Doris Leuthard told a press conference in Bern.

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