It can also ask, as one commune did of 23-year-old Fatma Karademir – who was born in Switzerland but who under Swiss law is Turkish like her parents – if she knew the words of the Swiss national anthem, if she could imagine marrying a Swiss boy and who she would support if the Swiss football team played Turkey. "Those kinds of questions are outside the law," says Mario Fehr. "But in some more remote villages you have a problem if you're from ex-Yugoslavia."
The federal government in Berne wants to take the decision out of the hands of local communities, one of which only gave the vote to women as recently as 1990. But the government's proposals have twice been defeated in referendums.
The big unspoken fact here is how a citizen is to be defined. "When a Swiss woman who has emigrated to Canada has a baby, that child automatically gets citizenship," Dr Schlüer says. But in what sense is a boy born in Canada, who may be brought up with an entirely different world view and set of values, more Swiss than someone like Fatma Karademir who has never lived anywhere but Switzerland?
The truth is that at the heart of the Swiss People's Party's vision is a visceral notion of kinship, breeding and blood that liberals would like to think sits very much at odds with the received wisdom of most of the Western world. It is what lies behind the SVP's fear of even moderate Islam. It has warned that because of their higher birth rates Muslims would eventually become a majority in Switzerland if the citizenship rules were eased. It is what lies behind his fierce support for the militia system.
To those who say that Germany, France, Italy and Austria are nowadays unlikely to invade, he invokes again the shadow of militant Islam. "The character of war is changing. There could be riots or eruptions in a town anywhere in Switzerland. There could be terrorism in a financial centre."
The race issue goes wider than politics in a tiny nation. "I'm broadly optimistic that the tide is moving in our direction both here and in other countries across Europe, said Dr Schlüer. "I feel more supported than criticised from outside."
The drama which is being played out in such direct politically incorrect language in Switzerland is one which has repercussions all across Europe, and wider.
Neutrality and nationality
* Switzerland has four national languages – German, Italian, French and Romansh. Most Swiss residents speak German as their first language.
* Switzerland's population has grown from 1.7 million in 1815 to 7.5 million in 2006. The population has risen by 750,000 since 1990.
* Swiss nationality law demands that candidates for Swiss naturalisation spend a minimum of years of permanent, legal residence in Switzerland, and gain fluency in one of the national languages.
* More than 20 per cent of the Swiss population, and 25 per cent of its workforce, is non-naturalised.
* At the end of 2006, 5,888 people were interned in Swiss prisons. 31 per cent were Swiss citizens – 69 per cent were foreigners or asylum-seekers.
* The number of unauthorised migrant workers currently employed is estimated at 100,000
Switzerland: Europe's heart of darkness? - Independent Online Edition > Europe