A proposal championed by right-wing parties to ban minarets in Switzerland goes to a nationwide vote on Sunday in a referendum that has set off an emotional debate about national identity and stirred fears of boycotts and violent reactions from Muslim countries.
With tensions running high, the Geneva Mosque was vandalized Thursday by unidentified individuals who threw a pot of pink paint at the building's entrance.
It was the third incident against the mosque this month: earlier, a vehicle with a loudspeaker drove through the area imitating a muezzin's call to prayer, and vandals threw cobble stones at the building, damaging a mosaic.
Business leaders say a minaret ban would be disastrous for the Swiss economy because it could drive away wealthy Muslims who bank in Switzerland, buy the country's luxury goods, and frequent its resorts.
The vote taps into anxieties about Muslims that have been rippling through Europe in recent years, ranging from French fears of women in body veils to Dutch alarm over the murder by a Muslim fanatic of a filmmaker who made a documentary that criticized Islam.
Polls indicate growing support for the proposal submitted by the anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party, but it was doubtful it will gain enough momentum to pass. Muslims in Switzerland have kept a low profile, refraining from a counter-campaign.
"Switzerland's good reputation as an open, tolerant and secure country may be lost and this would bring a blow to tourism," said Swiss Hotel Association spokesman Thomas Allemann.
The nationalist Swiss People's Party has led several campaigns against foreigners, including a proposal to kick out entire families of foreigners if one of their children breaks a law and a bid to subject citizenship applications to a popular vote.
The party's controversial posters have shown three white sheep kicking out a black sheep and a swarm of brown hands grabbing Swiss passports from a box.
The current campaign posters showing missile-like minarets atop the national flag and a fully veiled woman have drawn anger of local officials and rights defenders.
The cities of Basel, Lausanne and Fribourg banned the billboards, saying they painted a "racist, disrespectful and dangerous image" of Islam.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee called the posters discriminatory and said Switzerland would violate international law if it bans minarets.