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Sunday, November 29, 2009
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Swiss minaret vote: Projections suggest ban backed

Projections from exit polls suggest that voters in Switzerland have backed a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets.

The result is not yet official, but the BBC’s correspondent in Berne says if it is confirmed, it would be a surprise.

The proposal was backed by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the largest party in parliament, which claims minarets are a sign of Islamisation.

[…]

SVP member of parliament Ulrich Schluer said the referendum campaign had helped integration by encouraging debate. He rejected the charge of discrimination.

"Every Muslim is allowed to come together with other Muslims to have the religion together," he told the BBC.

"But a minaret is a political symbol. It is a symbol for introducing, step-by-step, Sharia rights also in Switzerland, parallel to the Swiss law which is a result of Swiss democracy. And this is the problem. It is nothing against Muslims."

Granted, I am no expert on Islamic political practices (let alone religious architecture), but I do no think that there is any relationship between the building of a minaret and the establishment of sharia law in the manner suggested here.   Rather, the minaret is linked to the call to prayer and Schuler’s statement sound a like more like islamophobia than it does anything else.  And how the whole thing can be construed as anything other than “against Muslims” is difficult to see.  If a minority Christian population was told that it couldn’t put crosses on its buildings, I expect those Christians would see such a move as in opposition to them, yes?

A few thoughts.

First, from a public policy perspective this is the kind of move that likely accomplishes the direct opposite over the long run of what its proponents want to accomplish.  In other words, this policy is based in the fear that a minority population will insufficiently integrate into the broader society.  Of course, by isolating that minority population from the broader society (and having a vote like this will certainly exacerbate feelings of isolation by Swiss Muslims) the odds are that the population will be less inclined to assimilate into the broader society.

Second, one would think that the Swiss, with their own history of internal division based on language and religion would not only be more sensitive to the problems presented by internal cleavages, but would also have a better solution than the blunt instrument of an outright ban.

Third, it is disquieting when democratic processes are used by the majority to take away rights from a minority.

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4 Responses to “Swiss Vote to Ban Minaret Construction”

  1. Elan Says:

    This ban would never get anywhere here, thanks to our constitution.

    You’re right, the arguments against it make no sense, this is being done completely out of hatred and fear.

  2. Umber Says:

    Thanks for posting this. I absolutely agree with your analysis. All right wing groups are the same everywhere — they are xenophobic and see diversity as a threat. They divide up the world in to “us” versus “them”. They portray “true” citizens as the only ones entitled to the fruits of “civilized” society or democracy and oppose the extension of democratic ideals to “uncivilized” peoples who don’t look like them or have a different cultural background. It’s been done against every immigrant group — this was the response to Irish and Catholics when they came to the U.S. Now it’s what Muslims in Europe are experiencing. There are examples of this across Europe. It’s all done in the name of secularism or the defense of democracy and European ideals. But, there’s a stark contrast to how religious symbols of Islam are suppressed in the name of European secularism versus how other religious symbols are handled.

  3. Joe Says:

    I voted against the ban, but still I find your analysis to be totally wrong: Minarets (as well as church towers) ARE symbols of power. By banning the minarets, we don’t isolate muslims, but send a clear message that islam is welcome in switzerland as long as it’s private and humble. I voted against because I don’t want to have a constitution that reglements such specific cases, I would have said yes if it was about to ban any religious tower. Muslims are very well integrated in Switzerland’s society and I believe it will stay the same even with a ban for minarets. Yes Switzerland is a multi cultural and multi language country (three offical languages, one unoffical, 26 dialects), we have 20% foreigner and Europa’s highest immigration rate and yes we are very sensitive to the problem. Integration works rather well for people who work, learn the language, are modest, aren’t constantly complaining and whining. No one gets a special treatment, true for swiss and foreigners.

    @Umber

    This has nothing to do with right wing groups being xenophobic. The biggest party in Switzerland (30%) is conservative and rural yes, but xenophobic -> NO! The initative was accepted with 57%, so 27% more votes than their potential voters!

    If Switzerland is now portrayed as a xenophobic brown hole in Europe so be it. We can take it and we know we are the contrary of xenophobic. The swiss people have banned the minarets not islam.

  4. Don Says:

    A native of Alabama who has worked and lived in Germany for a dozen years posted about this election @ http://schnitzelrepublic.blogspot.com/2009/11/swiss-vote-on-minarets.html

    Many Europeans seem to be concerned about the Muslim influence which is growing in their countries, and I can’t fault them for that. But I don’t see how banning just minarets and not Muslim mosques, or slowing down Muslim immigrants into their countries, can have any real effect on what concerns them.

    What am I missing here?


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