Monday, November 30, 2009

Switzerland bans minarets


Swiss voters have supported a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets, official results show.

More than 57% of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons -- or provinces -- voted in favour of the ban.

The proposal had been put forward by the Swiss People's Party, (SVP), the largest party in parliament, which says minarets are a sign of Islamisation.

The government opposed the ban, saying it would harm Switzerland's image, particularly in the Muslim world.

Not surprisingly, some conservatives, including in the U.S., are applauding the result, given their anti-Muslim views. But this is a pretty appalling expression of illiberalism in a generally liberal country, that is, in a country that generally values freedom highly. It's not just that Switzerland's image will be harmed in the Muslim world, it's that Switzerland has essentially voted against its own principles, against itself.

History is littered with examples of popular rule suppressing freedom, whether through direct democracy, as here, or through legislative action. And there have been many examples, of course, of countries violating their own generally liberal principles. (Think of slavery and segregation in the U.S., or the Patriot Act, "enhanced interrogation," and so much else that was done in response to 9/11.)

This vote, motivated in large part no doubt by widespread fear of the scapegoated Other that Muslims have been turned into even in generally liberal parts of the world like Western Europe, reveals a gaping hole in the commitment to freedom and diversity not just in Switzerland but in other liberal democratic countries where, one suspects, there is a good deal of sympathy, notably on the right, for such anti-Muslim initiatives broadly.

Why not synagogues? Or did a neighboring country try that already? It's hard to think of a gesture more useless with respect to a real problem -- integration of Muslim immigrants -- or clumsier as a way to provoke religious hostility and intolerance and thereby further radicalize Swiss Muslims. But it is a useful reminder that religious liberty and toleration have roots that are not so deep in Europe.

Needless to say, the Swiss people have voted stupidly, irresponsibly, and illiberally. They've made themselves look bad, and acted counter-productively, at a time when we need to be fighting religious extremism, including jihadist Islamism, not by violating our principles but by reinforcing just what it is we stand for.

Which is decidedly not banning minarets, or anything of the kind.

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  • the Truth about Islam

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:42 PM  

  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister and ex-mayor of Istanbul, said that 'the mosques are our barracks, the minarets our bayonets, the domes our helmets, and the believers our soldiers.'

    Commenting on the Oxford Mosque's demands to broadcast the amplified pre-recorded wailing, Dhimmiwatch says

    The noisy call to prayer is an act of dominance and aggression. The louder it is, the better. Mosques were always supposed to be built in high ground, or in the most imposing spot, towering over churches and synagogues, in the lands first conquered by Islam. Those aggressive skyward thrusting minarets were symbols of power, of dominance...



    By Blogger about merketing, at 2:46 PM  

  • I disagree completely with your overall thinking.

    First and foremost every country has the sovereign right to make laws and provisions that it feels is best for its populace and NOT POPULAR OPINON from other countries around the world.

    I applaud the Swiss because they recognize the threat of these wayward thinking, over zealous, extremist fanatical people are to the fabric of their society. They don't want any of the foolishness that they see happening in other countries regarding these people in their country.

    There are the good and bad people in every "religion" and I have nothing personal against the Muslims as individuals, I do have problems with their overall idealism. I do, emphatically and most seriously, reject and wish to contain ANY religious organization that uses any force in any manner to further its cause.

    The War Mongering United States could take a HUGE lesson from the Swiss. The Swiss have not been at war with another country in a very long time; contrast that with the United States which is a country that is in perpetual war with some country or countries, somewhere on the globe at any given time.

    The Muslims preach peace, but they have an agenda. They want religious domination and they have demonstrated this with cruel practices all over the world. Once they get a foot hold in a country they try and take over the religion of that country.

    The Swiss see this as an "invasion" to the sanctity of their way of life and have every right to limit or contain what they see as a clear and present danger.

    This is not about religious freedom. When anyone practices their religious freedom in a manner that is peaceful, non-threatening and makes absolutely no demands on the host country they are in then this is acceptable.

    By Blogger wizbang, at 3:47 PM  

  • Why shouldn't the people of Switzerland be allowed to pass this law? Should we place political correctness above all else, even when the safety of our citizens is in jeopardy? Even when the object of our ill-conceived sympathy and pandering considers our ideas of "freedom" of speech and of religion, to be offenses to their own way of life? Why should we walk all over our own in order to continually extend our hand to those who want nothing of our freedoms, who desire only domination? Is it the proper thing to do to bury our own way of life in order to cater to the demands of Islam?

    The Muslim community has a clear purpose, to impose their will and their religion onto the rest of the world. Any country that stands up to these would-be religious bullies should be commended for standing up for its own citizens and refusing to bow to the will of zealots. It's too bad that the Swiss government didn't have the gall to stand up for its own citizens and would prefer to side with those who would rather die than live at peace with them.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:39 PM  

  • Anonymous II, no one's saying they shouldn't be allowed to pass the law. What I'm saying is that they're doing a damn foolish thing -- and a damn bigoted thing, given that they're taking their fear/anger out on Muslims generally.

    Furthermore, your characterization of Islam is both facile and similarly bigoted. Muslims desire only domination, to impose their will on the rest of the world? Really? Do you actually know any Muslims? Why don't you educate yourself a bit before spouting such nonsense. Just because a small minority of Muslims believe in violent jihad doesn't mean the rest do. You might as well dismiss all Christians as genocidal theocrats.

    Wizard, I make that point in my post. Of course a sovereign country can makes its own laws. But that doesn't mean that those laws are good and just, or that we shouldn't be allowed to criticize them. Should no one have spoken up against Hitler's anti-Jewish laws? Or were they okay because Germany was a sovereign country? Such relativism is disturbing. Like Anonymous, too, you misprepresent Islam by taken what a minority things and applying it to the entire religion. Why don't you go out and meet some Muslims. Most are indeed quite peaceful. And just because the Swiss think they're being invaded doesn't make it right. This is a clear case of scapegoating, of vilifying an easily identifiable Other.

    I suppose I take Erdogan's views seriously, but they're extremist. Yes, Islam has a history of conquest, but so does Christianity. The way things once were is not necessary the way they are now. I'm sure it's possible to have mosques with minarets that are less domineering.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 7:57 PM  

  • hello all you people and thanks for this lovely tolerant article in a sea of hostility. my, my just yesterday the Swiss were taking advantage of people by taking their money and now they reject them. they don't reject Muslim money as they don't Jewish money. they worked with the Nazis and they will anyone who has money and is powerful.
    Muslims usually are from the weaker sections of society and are illiterate with a very poor share of the press in every way.
    the Swiss have aimed a low blow at some of the poorest people on the planet. they are all the refugees, the economic and war refugees. have a look at how the billion plus, soon to be the largest religion on the earth live. they are poor, they starve, they die in war. the few thousands of Muslims with visions of grandeur cannot represent the billions. only a fool with no idea of reality or who has never traveled with think that the entire community is responsible for everyone. is the Turkish premier the khalifah, does he actually speak for an arab, a Bangladeshi, a Somali, a Bosnian. what does a Turk have to do with the Indian Muslim who starves in a slum in Bombay?
    have people lost all sense of reality here.
    can the taj mahal, with its grand minarets, now never have a chance of ever being built in Switzerland?

    By Blogger Unknown, at 8:14 AM  

  • You are trying to compare Christianity and Islam by saying
    "Yes, Islam has a history of conquest, but so does Christianity. The way things once were is not necessary the way they are now."

    There are several problems with this.

    One is that Islam has domination built into it. It says those who follow that way should conquer all others who do not follow their way.
    Jesus said to love your enemy and those who live by the sword die by the sword. Also, no Pope-like figure ever tried to spread a kingdom through military might.

    Beyond that, try and go build a church, even a small one in Saudi Arabia. If you want to build one in Indonesia you have to get the signature of every man in the neighborhood.

    We could go on. We won't. I think your article was not well thought out and you are naive to the danger. Are you aware that Iran's name is the Islamic Republic? Does that sound like all this is in the past?

    I usually sign my name but I am currently in an Islamic neighborhood...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:21 AM  

  • When Muslims in Switzerland are not allowed to build minarets it becomes big news all over the world.

    What about in Muslim majority countries when Christians and other religious groups cannot even build a simple church or temple?

    Take for example, in Shah Alam in Malaysia where it took 14 years before a church was given approval to be built. After the approval was given, many conditions were set , among them the church should not look like a church!! And it had to be built in an industrial area away from residential areas.

    Or go read how a small church built by the natives of Malaysia (orang asli) was demolished.

    So news of the ban on minarets in Switzerland makes big headlines?

    The west are very afraid of Muslims and that is a fact.

    Look at how Muslim majority countries treat the minority religious groups.

    I am not calling for revenge but balance reporting.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:41 AM  

  • go here:

    This is a moment for the writer who began this. Are you aware that it is the law in Egypt that a Muslim who converts to Christianity is guilty of a capital offense? And that is merely the carrying over of the Islamic tradition. The only difference is that in the "old days" it was by impaling, today they hang the Christians, I believe.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:04 AM  

  • Here are my comments:

    1) It is a mistake to treat Islam like some sort of monolith. Doing so is like saying all Christians are like Pat Robertson. There are some elements of Islam that may emphasize domination, but there is great diversity among Muslims, and they should not all be treated like jihadists.

    2) Criticizing Switzerland does not mean excusing what goes on in other countries, including in repressive Muslim states. No one is saying that the Swiss are the same as, say, the Egyptians. I am not a relativist and I have been extremly critical of all forms of tyranny at this blog and in my writings generally, whether it's Iran or Venezuela or North Korea or Saudi Arabia. The point is, I expect better of the Swiss, who with this vote have undermined their own liberal principles.

    3) Anonymous, do you really believe that Christianity follows the unadulterated teachings of Jesus? Do you know nothing of the history of Christianity. Even now, Christians in Uganda, backed by Rick Warren, are poushing legislation that would impose life imprisonment and even the death penalty on gays. (I blogged about this yesterday and today. Go to the main page to read my posts.)

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 9:46 AM  

  • To Michael JW Stickings,

    1)No one is treating Islam like a monolith, however when the salafis in Saudi Arabia, the shias in Iran, the so called "liberal" muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia behave in pretty much the same way towards their minorities then I do tend to generalise.

    2) Everything is relative & to every action there is a reaction, I think someone said these words some time ago.

    3) Christianity is every bit as venomous as when it started. The only difference is that that most christians have by and large defeated christianity.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:20 AM  

  • Ok. I see all agree that 57% vote on banning minarets is democratic. If we think this way, then we would consider what Nazism did to Germany was very democratic since Hitler's party received the majority vote. Or let's say Turkey has decided to go for a referendum about whether a prayer should be called from Hagia Sophia. And let's say 57% of Turkish people voted YES. Would you consider this democratic?

    If we are gonna go on referendum on religious matters, why do we need laws and constitution? Or why do we need a government at all? A state must have a constitution and laws and what I see from here is that Swizterland is a weak racist state.

    Swiss and their supportive Europeans had problems with synagoges yesterday and now they have a problem with mosques...But what about future? What will come next? Will you expel gays, atheists, deists etc. in the future just because you can't tolerate them. Democracy is about respecting another human being. Where is respect here?

    This ban is unbelievable! It is a big slap to those Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist people of the world who have been working their ass off for democracy, freedom and tolerance.
    We are all different and this is why we need democracy. This is what we are fighting for. Someone else's faults can't make our faults right. Giving examples of Iran, Saudi Arabia or Malaysia can't make this ban right. After all Swiss Moslems are mostly from Turkey, Kosova and Bosnia and they are secular states where minorities enjoy their religious freedom. Democracy is not about accepting another religion or culture but it is about accepting people despite their diversity. This is not a religious matter; this is about the violation of basic human rights. If it is done to Moslems today, there is no guarantee that it wont happen to you tomorrow.
    Shame on you Switzerland and your supporters.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:36 PM  

  • Dear author,

    Thank you for your reasoned, sensible and logical analysis of the situation in Switzerland. I guess it was expected that you would get so many negative anti-Islamic responses from readers, because Muslims are the most misrepresented, misunderstood and mistreated minority in the western world. The media does little to help correct these incorrect perceptions.

    To correct some statements made in previous comments:
    Anonymous (9:04): I don't know where you get your information from about Muslims who convert to Christianity in Egypt getting hung or shot. I have lived in Egypt for 20 years among Christians and Muslims and have never seen or heard of any such incidents. The website you site as your reference is xenophobic anti-Muslim site that spews hatred against Islam and its followers.

    Anonymous (8:21): Islam is not built on domination, in fact the prophet lived most of his life being persecuted by the Arab tribes that rejected his message. It is a misconception that Islam was spread by the sword, it spread with trade and migration patterns of Arab tribes as they pushed out of Arabia. Even when Spain was under Muslim rule, all its inhabitants (Muslims, Christians, and Jews) were prospering. Also you claim that "no Pope-like figure ever tried to spread a kingdom through military might..." Have you not heard of the crusades, and the centuries of bloodshed that followed them? Please read some more history before making such shallow comments.

    By Anonymous ramsis, at 6:41 PM  

  • islam was indeed spread by the sword in almost every case:

    battle of jerusalem,638 AD. muslims captured jerusalem which had been a christian city for hundreds of years.

    battle of yarmuk, 636 ad
    muslims defeated byzantine armies in syria and imposed their rule on the christian populace. defeated byzantine commander theodore was given the choice of converting to islam or death by the sword, he chose the latter.

    battle/seige of alexandria 641 ad
    muslims captured said city and massacred its christian inhabitants..the rest of egypt fell to the muslims within months...

    muslim armies invade and conquer armenia, 641 ad...the inauguration of 1400 years of islamic opression of armenians that culminated in abdul hamid's genocide of armenians in the early 20th century.

    i could go on and on about "peaceful muslim expansion" but i feel this is enough to grasp the general idea....

    the religion in itself is a venemous concept for those unwilling to accept it by choice....true muslims have a duty to conquer and dominate the unbeliever.......bravo to switzerland for taking the job of protecting their culture seriously.......

    By Blogger thuglifebaldwin, at 7:21 PM  

  • I live in a country with a Muslim Majority, the noise these guys make at 4am (especially) and at many other times every day is annoying and selfish, designed to coerce and control the population. Where I live there is a move to ban the loudspeakers. It is not part of European culture to allow someone to scream "wake up, wake up, wake up!!" at the top of their lungs through a loudspeaker at 4am. I applaud the Swiss for protecting themselves from the inevitable noise invasion that would follow and encourage them to pass stringent noise control laws to ensure their peace. Religion should be conducted without invading the peace and privacy of others.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:39 PM  

  • You can't make generalizations about Islam and the way it has expanded throughout history without also looking at the ways other religions have spread throughout history. Nearly every religion has, at one point or another, used violence to spread. Christianity has done it countless times throughout history (the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Manifest Destiny...), but this is beside the point. The reason that this is a big deal is because Switzerland's supposed to be a neutral country.

    It would be easier on everyone if the people who didn't like Muslims would just come out and say it, instead of hiding behind "facts" and "proof." I mean, can't they foresee the consequences of their actions, are they that blind? It's ridiculous how the Swiss are trying to justify themselves by saying that they're afraid of Islamic law taking over their country, when Muslims only make up 4% of the population and there are only four minarets in the entire country. Can't they see that by banning houses of worship and by ostracizing a very small portion of the population, especially with those posters which were clearly meant to make people fear Muslims, they are only fueling the majority's hate and distrust of the small portion? Acts of bigotry like this in the past have lead wide-scale genocide and ethnic cleansing, but I suppose the Swiss wouldn't know anything about that, would they? For a country that's supposed to be "neutral," they sure made a big, and idiotic, statement when the passed that ban.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:49 PM  

  • Many of the Muslims in Switzerland come from Kosovo. Muslims in Kosovo have destroyed almost 150 Serbian churches and monasteries over the last five years. Not just banned the building of new ones, but destroyed existing ones, many of them historic (so far from being an interloper in Kosovo as Islam is in Switzerland, Serbian culture is older there than Muslim culture, even though Serbs are now in the minority).

    Can we be surprised that the Swiss want to discourage Islam in their own country, when it behaves that way where it came from? Let's not lose track of which culture is truly intolerant of pluralism.

    By Anonymous Infidel753, at 9:13 AM  

  • I am a Swiss Citizen and I voted no on this initiative. The reason is of course that it goes against the very principles that we as a nation try to uphold.
    With that we are starting to erode the line that sepparates us from countrys where constitutional rights are unheard of.

    Most politicians and polls were predicting that the proposal would not pass. So it was a pretty big surprise.

    However the vote was democratic even if I do not like the outcome. Still I am sure that most people in switzerland would NOT vote on a law to ban mosques. They just don't want to life next to a Minarette. They have a point in that Minarets can alter the look of village pretty strongly. Of course it was not possible to build Minarets in historyc parts of villages even before the vote but many people were afraid nonetheless.

    Also I would like to point out that muslims DO represent 4% of our population witch is about six times as big as in the USA(0,6%). So this may explain some of the "uneasiness" in switzerland and generally in europe.

    In addition those muslim communities have a tendencie to stick to themselve whitch creates ghettos (eg in Berlin) that hinder integration.

    By Anonymous voter, at 6:08 PM  

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