Switzerland voted in favour of banning face coverings in public, including burka or niqab worn by Muslim women.
The referendum passed 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent.
The proposal was put forward by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) which campaigned with slogans such as “Stop extremism”.
A leading Swiss Islamic group said it was “a dark day” for Muslims.
“Today’s decision opens old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality, and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority,” the Central Council of Muslims said in a statement, adding that it would challenge the decision in court.
The Swiss government had argued against the ban saying it was not up to the state to dictate what women wear.
According to a research by the University of Lucerne almost no-one in Switzerland wears a burka and only around 30 women wear the niqab. About 5% of Switzerland’s population of 8.6 million people are Muslim, most originating from Turkey, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Amnesty International spoke out against the proposed ban, calling it “a dangerous policy that violates women’s rights, including freedom of expression and religion”.
The wearing of Islamic veils in public has been a controversial topic in other European countries. France banned wearing a full face veil in public in 2011 while the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria and Bulgaria have put in place full or partial bans on wearing face coverings in public.