Minarets in Switzerland

by Kieran Healy on November 30, 2009

I hadn’t been following the story of Switzerland’s efforts to ban the construction of minarets. Switzerland has about 400,000 muslims and — though there are many mosques — precisely four minarets. The referendum succeeded by a comfortable majority. As you can see from the poster, the rights of women under Islam were pointed to as a reason to support the ban. The Guardian reports that the pro-ban SPP

said that going to the European court would breach the popular sovereignty that underpins the Swiss democratic model and tradition … It dismissed the arguments about freedom or religion, asserting that minarets were not a religious but a political symbol, and the thin end of a wedge that would bring sharia law to the country, with forced marriages, “honour” killings, female genital mutilation and oppression of women … The prohibition also found substantial support on the left and among secularists worried about the status of women in Islamic cultures. Prominent feminists attacked minarets as male power symbols, deplored the oppression of Muslim women, and urged a vote for the ban.

The Times reports that there’s some evidence that more women were in favor of the ban than men, too. One can only suppose that, having waited until 1971 to give women the vote in Federal elections, and in some parts of the country until 1990 in Cantonal elections, the Swiss are now making up for lost time making good on their commitment to feminism.

{ 120 comments }

1

rosmar 11.30.09 at 3:15 am

Excellent and hilarious analysis.

2

jaffa Cohen 11.30.09 at 3:49 am

By far the majority of Muslims in the world live in tolerant Islamic countries like Malaysia, India, and Indonesia.
The intolerant Islamic countries are those propped up by the West – Saudi Arabia, Egypt etc..
So the Swiss have just given a kick in the teeth for over a billion secular Muslims worldwide whose feelings are now bound to be hurt -
If the Swiss really wanted to fight bad practices then they should not help the dictators of the world to hide and stash away the billions looted from the poor that is profit from money stolen from the impoverished.
There are only four Minarets in Switzerland catering for 400,000 Muslims (mostly European and Turkish) who are secular and peace loving.
Concentrate, you good and honest Swiss folk not on phoney issues like Minarets but big ones like passing a law banning your banks helping Tax evaders from every country in the world, including Great Britain.

3

Bongo Bains 11.30.09 at 4:09 am

The poster intentionally makes the minarets look rather like an arsenal of nukes. Interesting that there are only four actual minarets in the country. I’m aware of two smallish ones in Zurich and Geneva that are unlikely to threaten even a devotee of Mark Steyn.

I’m sure if you looked into it you would find that there are also a tiny number of Muslim women who are actually out and about in Zurich attired in burqas – the garment represented in the poster.

The move to ban minarets is really a violation of the Swiss constitution that guarantees freedom of religious expression to all. But I’m sure the People’s Party isn’t unduly influenced by that minor detail.

As it is many mosques in Switzerland have been relegated to very undesirable sites. A number are located in former warehouses and factories. In Berne the largest mosque is in a former underground parking lot, perhaps to discourage minaret aspirations.

The reactionary climate in Europe with respect to Islam tends to feed off paranoid fantasies and stereotypes. If you start dictating to one religious group what type of place of worship they are allowed and how their women are permitted to dress, maybe the crackdown should extend to Catholics and other sects also. The garb of some orders of nun for example suggests toadying to patriarchal views of female modesty and who knows what they might try to smuggle undetected under there. Can’t be too careful.

Some spires tend to dominate town squares in a rather menacing fashion, not to mention the tolling of bells that have driven some locals in Italy and Spain close to madness. There have been actual lawsuits brought by people in an effort to stop the incessant clanging at key hours of the day. The call of an imam is mercifully brief by comparison.

It would be great if religion, especially of the institutional monotheistic variety would simply take a hike. But since that seems unlikely to happen any time soon, singling out Islam for the short-end-of-the-stick certainly has the appearance of discrimination.

4

Billikin 11.30.09 at 4:26 am

How about steeples?

Sometimes a phallic symbol is just a phallic symbol, as Freud might have said. ;)

5

Lanny 11.30.09 at 5:04 am

The minarets are never allowed to be used for prayer call in Europe..
they are merely a beautiful architectural piece, to make them different from a factory or a church.
Minarets originated immitating church towers in the middle east..the first minarets were even square exactly like church towers.
muslims in Switzerland are neither prolific builders (they are too poor to splurge on a minaret), nor religious since they are almost all native Europeans..and actually indistinguishable from the rest since they are white (Bosniaks, kosovar, Turks).

this move is simply made to show them their place and make it clear they are not welcomed..something they have always known.
otherwise its beyond me why 4 minarets amongst 10 million people would bother the Swiss that much.
and if their identity and values are really being threatened by 4 minarets then they will need a lot of referendums coz those values turned out to be that fragile.
I guess all that has been said about freedom of worship meant for christians, and all the brag about human rights means (for whites)..
it just shows you what kind of a country Switzerland is, and what kind of mountionous narrow minded Nazi/ultra catholic Swiss people are…also reminds me how lucky I am to be American.
after all here in The US we dont referendum to ask the religious majority to approve of the minority religion..otherwise there would be only 2 or 3 religions in this world.

6

bjk 11.30.09 at 5:49 am

PC vs. multiculturalism . . . the battle of the 21st century.

7

R Gould-Saltman 11.30.09 at 7:11 am

Jaffa Cohen refers to Malaysia as a “tolerant” Islamic country:

the Malaysian government is now apparently back to enforcing the position that Christians and others cannot translate the word “god” as “allah”, on pain of confiscation of the publication, because such use might confuse Muslims who might thus inadvertently expose themselves to an apostate belief. http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/29/malaysia.bibles.seized/

A government which literally gives their favored religion a enforced legal monopoly on the use of a particular word only qualifies as “tolerant” in comparison with, say, Maldives, which has reaffirmed their ban on non-Muslims conducting any sort of public worship at all, and on any non-Muslims inviting any Maldives citizens (who must be Muslim) to participate in any sort of non-Muslim worship, private or public.
http://www.minivannews.com/news_detail.php?id=7737

r gould-saltman

8

barleybay 11.30.09 at 9:01 am

That everyone else is doing it is usually the poorest excuse in the World. At least, that’s what my mom use to say.

Prove you’re not something I fear — that’s the standard of much of the right it seems.

9

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.30.09 at 9:28 am

@3 The move to ban minarets is really a violation of the Swiss constitution that guarantees freedom of religious expression to all. But I’m sure the People’s Party isn’t unduly influenced by that minor detail.

This is the whole point of this referendum: they got a majority of the popular vote and a majority of the cantons, and therefore it amends the constitution.

10

zdenekv 11.30.09 at 9:39 am

@# 3 : “If you going to start dictating to one religion …. maybe the crackdown should extend to other sects .”

Does this follow ? Does it follow that if you ban say the Nazi party ( or as Czechs are doing now seriously contemplate banning the communist party ) you must ban other political parties ? Doesnt follow really unless you assume that ( and this is a questionable ) all political parties and all religions are same. Or think of political symbols : does it follow that if you ban sculptures of Hitler you must ban sculptures of Churchill ?

11

JoB 11.30.09 at 10:02 am

3- by all means, finally I’ll be able to sleep late on Sundays without the damned church bells from 10 different churches (also: in a city of close to 100K muslims, I have yet to see a minaret; let alone hear somebody do religious business from it; is anybody really interested in anything non-symbolic in this debate?)

12

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.30.09 at 10:43 am

Right, the damned churches. Every time I’m in a hotel in Europe, inevitably there is a church next to my window with a clock chiming every quarter hour. What’s the deal with that?

13

zdenekv 11.30.09 at 10:48 am

Tariq Ramadan has a piece on this here : http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/nov/29/swiss-vote-ban-minarets-fear?showallcomments=true#e . Unfortunately the argument he makes against the vote is a disaster and I am sure there are better ones. He argues that the decision is untenable because its based on fear. But this is just silly and its amazing that the guy doesn’t see it . I mean from the fact that I decide , say , to run away from a large, what to me appears to be a dangerous dog, because I am afraid of it, it doesn’t follow that my decision to run away had to be a bad one. I run away because I am afraid but my fear in this case is perfectly sensible because its based on true beliefs about the dog and so is my decision based on it is sensible . Same thing applies to Ramadan’s argument : the Swiss may have voted out of fear but it doesn’t follow on its own that their fear was irrational.

14

JoB 11.30.09 at 10:55 am

10- it remins us of days that are luckily in the past; maybe it alerts others to possibility of days that are luckier than their present. But I don’t need reminding; they don’t need our incentives. Blame it on the machines; for God’s helpers are not chiming the bloody things anymore, I can tell ya.

15

Kevin Donoghue 11.30.09 at 11:12 am

I run away because I am afraid but my fear in this case is perfectly sensible because its based on true beliefs about the dog and so is my decision based on it is sensible.

Your belief that you can outrun a large dog is about as likely to be true as the belief that the oppressors of Muslim women will be intimidated by a ban on minarets.

16

a.y. mous 11.30.09 at 11:23 am

Minaret Silos – How the Illuminati illuminate blackletters with dim shadows of hidden ends!

– A novel by Dan Brown

Minarets are banned in Switzerland. In Malaysia, Christians are forced to say Jesus H Christ always. A physicist in Utah announces a solution to John Q’s dilemma (1). Germany re-adopts the Serif. The first public investure of a Grand Master takes place in India (2). They are all connected. Meet Robert Langdon, the symbologist who pieces these events as he discovers the hidden reason for Germany’s choice of poster fonts.

Chapter 1

Renowned European political office bearer, Politician Herman Van Rompuy has just got himself elected as Europe’s first President. Being a devout and religious Catholic, he beat Tony Blair, himself a Catholic of the Protestant kind…..

(1) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091123083704.htm
(2) http://www.thehindu.com/2009/11/03/stories/2009110360360500.htm

17

Tim Wilkinson 11.30.09 at 12:12 pm

A bit of xenophobia, a bit of racism, a bit of fear, bit of rule-based planning restrictions, all good stuff, but of course the ingredients vary quite a lot according to local taste. The organising principle and primal drive at work is War – war cut down to its bare essentials of a drumbeat and a picture of the enemy. Oceania is, in case you effete eggheads have forgotten, at war with Eastasia.

Obama’s finge may keep straying toward the chicken-switch, but the good burghers of Switzerland have learnt the lessons of the past 8 years of the Military-Industrial-Intelligence-Political complex’s martial mythologising, and are happy to do their bit, even if regrettably it can only be in little symbolic ways.

And here in the Shire, the breast swells with pride to hear Gordon Brown say he want Pakistan to do more to ‘take out’ Bin Ladin (yes, he’s back! and he’s almost certainly still alive, and hanging around within the AfPak ‘theatre’. Of course!) Why, I was so excited I picked up a goat’s legbone and smashed Ug (who incidentally I suspect of wanting my woman) round the head with it in celebration before I realised what I was doing.

The longer this war goes on, the more I tend to think that what’s really needed is a fearless, enterprising group of privateer assassins, if you ask me. Big, strong men who don’t take any shit. Like me, really, only obviously I couldn’t move that far away from mum, could I, what with her back and everything.

Oceania!

18

Tim Wilkinson 11.30.09 at 12:14 pm

19

zdenekv 11.30.09 at 12:24 pm

“Your belief that you can outrun a large dog is about as likely to be true as the belief that the oppressors of Muslim women will be intimidated by a ban on minarets. “

Sure, but that is beside the point . The point is that my fear is justified because its based on the true believe that I am about to be attacked by a dangerous dog. As I said Ramadan is assuming that the voting has to be illegitimate just because its based on fear but since some fears are reasonable / rational ( if they are caused in the right way ) that doesn’t follow. Anyway, if you don’t like my example I have others : suppose that I decide not to take a short cut across the frozen river because I believe that the ice is too thin and I might fall into the river . And assume that the believe in question is true and that it causes my fear that I might fall in and that on basis of this fear I take the long route instead of the short cut . My action is caused by fear but its the right thing to do and same might apply to the Swiss vote.

20

mollymooly 11.30.09 at 1:20 pm

In the other Swiss referendum, 68% rejected a ban on weapons exports. The backers should have started smaller: just banning exports to Muslim countries. That would have been a more interesting debate.

Also, Wikipedia says the inserted text simply says “The building of minarets is prohibited”: how is “minaret” to be defined? I can hear the advocate saying “That’s not a minaret, judge: it’s a replica cruise missile, which is perfectly legal.”

21

Steve LaBonne 11.30.09 at 1:40 pm

There are days when I positively hope that climate change will lead to the rapid extinction of our ridiculous species. Stories like this tend to bring on that mood.

22

NomadUK 11.30.09 at 2:24 pm

I keep hoping for an asteroid, myself.

23

ajay 11.30.09 at 2:24 pm

Some spires tend to dominate town squares in a rather menacing fashion,

???

In Berne the largest mosque is in a former underground parking lot, perhaps to discourage minaret aspirations.

Ha. Presumably underground minarets are also covered. Or they could rent out a lift shaft in the building above and build a very narrow minaret up the inside.

24

Mrs Tilton 11.30.09 at 2:37 pm

a.y. @14,

Being a devout and religious Catholic, [Van Rompuy] beat Tony Blair, himself a Catholic of the Protestant kind

Blair is, I’m sorry to have to inform you, now a catholic as Roman as you could ask for, having “poped” after stepping down as PM. Surely it cannot be the case that he waited cynically to do so until it would no longer create a conflict with the terms of his employment. Rather, a thoughtful and almost Englishly discreet Holy Ghost undoubtedly withheld from Blair the grace to enter into full communion with the Holy See so long as doing so might place him in an embarrassing position.

Blair’s mother and my grandmother were born in the same Co. Donegal town (indeed, both of them in houses on the Diamond). I like to think my granny had the chance to kick the future Mrs Blair in the shins, as prospective punishment for inflicting her wretched son upon the earth.

25

saj 11.30.09 at 3:00 pm

g t hll!!! r ll mslm htrs!!!! r lst n wrld f msnc dcptn~~~

26

ajay 11.30.09 at 3:25 pm

Surely it cannot be the case that he waited cynically to do so until it would no longer create a conflict with the terms of his employment.

There’s no requirement for the Prime Minister to be of any particular religion, so I’m not quite clear what you’re on about here.

27

soru 11.30.09 at 3:47 pm

The point is that my fear is justified because its based on the true believe that I am about to be attacked by a dangerous dog.

The thing about irrational fears is, even if they happen by some fortune to be exactly proportional to some real threat, they get the details wrong. An arachnophobe will freak out over something that has the ‘essence of spider’ (say a 4 inch woolly tarantula), and ignore the much more poisonous funnel web.

Politics + religion can be a dangerous mix. Architecture + religion not so much.

28

Mrs Tilton 11.30.09 at 4:12 pm

ajay @26,

you are right. I’d thought ineligibility for the office of prime minister one of the few remaining disabilities imposed on UK RCs. On taking a fresh look at the Catholic Relief Act of 1829, though, I see that memory served me ill. RCs are debarred from serving as Lord Chancellor (and Keeper of the Seal, if there still were one), but not as PM.

I suppose one could read the clause forbidding RCs from advising the monarch, directly or indirectly, on appointments to CoE or CoS offices as effectively ruling out a catholic PM, but that would be a very strict reading.

29

Mrs Tilton 11.30.09 at 4:42 pm

Soru @27,

Politics + religion can be a dangerous mix. Architecture + religion not so much.

If your latter assertion were true, Voltaire would have written one book fewer, and we’d all be the poorer for it. Well; all of us, save those worshippers in the Lisbon cathedral.

30

ajay 11.30.09 at 4:44 pm

More likely, I think, you’d just see the role of church advisor as devolving on the senior non-catholic member of the Cabinet. Probably the Lord Chancellor, I’d think.

And I don’t think the monarch makes any Church of Scotland appointments. There aren’t any to make (except, I suppose, COS Chaplains to the Armed Forces). The Act prohibits RCs from being Lord High Commissioner, but the LHC doesn’t have any power and never really did.

31

Kathleen Lowrey 11.30.09 at 5:11 pm

Who are these “prominent feminists” alluded to — but not named — in the Guardian article? It’s hard for me to believe that many serious feminists wouldn’t immediately point out what has already been indicated here: sure, minarets might well be “symbols of male power”; so might church steeples — if we’re genuinely concerned about the one we’ve gotta go after the other, too.

I don’t mind so much when the right tries to invoke feminism to advance their agenda — lying and obfuscating is what they do, after all. But I do mind quite a bit when the left invokes racism as an anti-feminist club: “oh, those “prominent feminists”. Feminists are all really racists, you know”.

Again, who are these “prominent feminists”? Orianna Fallacci types, I’m guessing — that is, “prominent”, yes; representative of feminism, not so much.

32

Ex-PD 11.30.09 at 5:22 pm

I am now boycotting Switzerland.

Easiest boycott ever!

33

dave heasman 11.30.09 at 5:39 pm

Mrs Ttells us “Blair is, I’m sorry to have to inform you, now a catholic as Roman as you could ask for” which reflects pretty ill on Roman Catholicism.
I recall Blair, on being chided by the saintly Cardinal Hume for taking Communion while a Proddywhack, bleating “I wonder what Jesus would think of that”, which manages to be both a nauseating example of self-serving victimhood and a position just about as Protestant as you could get.

34

Sebastian 11.30.09 at 5:45 pm

has anyone studied mosque building in Western Europe comparatively?
I’m very intrigued by the whole thing – the Swiss are going nuts over it, in Germany, where the debates are always local (as they should be imho) you have resistance, but also conservative (CDU) politicians investing political capital in Mosques. I’ve never heard of a Mosque debate in France and I think it’s pretty unthinkable given their particular type of secularism.
But that’s as far as my knowledge goes – Spain would be fascinating to know about, as would be the Netherlands. Also, I’m curious about how sophisticated reactions are – so, in cases where opposition is local would we get more forceful reactions to, say, a Wahabit mosque than to a more moderate mainstream one?
How does the migration structure affect this – in Berlin, I remember one of the big issues with a new mosque was that it was to be built in a part of the town with very few muslims. Take that together with the fact that afaik the larger cities, with largest number of muslims voted no on the referendum in Switzerland….
lots of interesting stuff.

35

Mrs Tilton 11.30.09 at 5:48 pm

ajay @30,

I don’t think the monarch makes any Church of Scotland appointments

Probably not. But in any event (perhaps just to be on the safe side), the Catholic Relief Act forbids RCs to advise the monarch on that front anyway.

36

Natilo Paennim 11.30.09 at 5:53 pm

Beware the holy trinity: church and state and law.
-Chumbawamba

Every time I see this sort of thing I am more confirmed in my sense that I should never have changed a single thing about the pure anarchist politics that I held when I was 18. Every compromise has brought me closer to the bourgeois liberalism that merely covers up the worst excesses of reaction.
I’ve been reading Gordon Craig’s Europe Since 1815, copyright 1961, which is refreshingly straightforward about its ideological basis. It’s written from the center of the postwar consensus, and while Craig decries the despicable Oriental monarchs like Nicholas I, he falls all over himself to excuse repression by reactionaries and capitalists in England and France. Also, the first woman is not mentioned until page 76. Capital and the state have gotten so much more insidious in the last 48 years. One wouldn’t have thought it possible, but there you are.

37

engels 11.30.09 at 5:53 pm

Kathleen, it’s a Times article and so has nothing to do with ‘the left’ and its entirely possible its claims about ‘prominent feminists’ and ‘radicial feminists’ supporting the campaign are mostly BS. They do name Julia Onken, though (I have no idea who she is). According to a possibly more accurate Guardian article:

The rightwing anti-immigrant lobby has led the campaign, but it has been joined by some secularist leftists and liberals fiercely critical of Islam. Julia Onken, a prominent feminist and psychologist and bestselling author of self-help books, last week called on women to vote for the ban. “Mosques are male houses, minarets are male power symbols,” she declared. “The building of minarets is also a visible signal of the state’s acceptance of the oppression of women.”

38

Tim Wilkinson 11.30.09 at 5:56 pm

24 ff – I suppose what you would have seen was a couple of clauses tacked onto an act of parliament. But I imagine the problem was not that converting to RC would have caused any constitutional problems, as that Campbell told him not to ‘do God’ for electoral reasons.

In addition, one might (perhaps naively) think that he would have had some trouble getting in while still in office, given that what he was getting up to was pretty clearly utterly incompatible with him receiving the eucharist. On the other hand, things were not (if understand the relevant doctrines) much different even after he stopped being quite so proactively Satan-friendly on such a massive scale, given his patent unrepentance for the Iraq slaughter – quite a chunky sin, I believe.

That’s on top of the specifically catholic-related stuff relating to among other things various aspects of reproduction that he presided over during his reign and shows no sign of having changed his mind about. As I understand it, you are supposed to be fully repentant, and not obviously and flippantly unconcerned about the whole business when you receive sacraments, but that’s up to them I suppose. I guess you’re not supposed to give masses when engaged in an ongoing course of raping little boys or enabling such activities, either – go figure.

And some of them seemed OK with him tagging along with Cherie to indulge in what are considered sacrilegious communions, until the Vatican received complaints and told him to give the desecration of the flesh and blood of Christ a miss, if he would be so kind. Maybe such rigid rules are now old hat, I dunno. Perhaps I have it all the wrong way round, and Blair has in fact effectively converted the RC church to anglicanism? It would explain its concessions to the proposed new intake (actually, I don’t really know what those are, but it fits in so well…).

I dunno. Things have come to a pretty pass when I as an atheist seem to be taking this stuff more seriously than its proponents.

(dh @33 beat me to some of that)

39

Bongo Bains 11.30.09 at 6:25 pm

#10 said: “Does this follow ? Does it follow that if you ban say the Nazi party ( or as Czechs are doing now seriously contemplate banning the communist party ) you must ban other political parties ? Doesnt follow really unless you assume that ( and this is a questionable ) all political parties and all religions are same. Or think of political symbols : does it follow that if you ban sculptures of Hitler you must ban sculptures of Churchill ?”

Rather far-fetched analogy zdenekv… to say the least.

You appear to be equating Islam with the Nazi party and implying that it should be differentiated from other religions based presumably on your personal prejudices. What exactly pictures of Hitler and Churchill have to do with the debate is beyond me – except that Hitler (bad)… Churchill (good)… might be a good way to get the point across to Kemosabe.

Institutionalized religion sucks, but what sucks even more are xenophobic hate mongers looking to scapegoat Muslims. A lot of the fears re Islam-in-Europe are overly hyped. Course you need to actually hang with Muslims and get a feel for their culture in the Eurozone to know that, something the minaret phobics avoid like the plague because putting a human face on a bogeyman isn’t the object of the exercise.

There is much about Islam I personally dislike, but that’s just because I’m a non-subscriber when it comes to monotheistic beliefs, not because I think Islam is inherently more objectionable than say Ratzinger and his ecclesiastical empire. Unlike the RC firm, Islam doesn’t have a history for example of institutional child abuse that crossed borders and went to the highest levels.

Minaret hate is kind of like dick-envy… Muslims presume to have a bigger one and moreover have the temerity to flash it shamelessly. Must be particularly enervating for poorly endowed right-wing kooks to have to look at a cityscape with that biggie on the horizon.

40

ajay 11.30.09 at 6:28 pm

Perhaps I have it all the wrong way round, and Blair has in fact effectively converted the RC church to anglicanism?

Or New Catholicism, as you might say.

one might (perhaps naively) think that he would have had some trouble getting in while still in office, given that what he was getting up to was pretty clearly utterly incompatible with him receiving the eucharist.

Oh, please. When was the last time that the RCs even threatened to kick someone out for getting involved in an aggressive war? If they were cool with Mussolini gassing the Ethiopians en masse, they’re hardly going to kick up about a few Iraqis.

41

Rabbi 11.30.09 at 6:40 pm

“Your belief that you can outrun a large dog is about as likely to be true as the belief that the oppressors of Muslim women will be intimidated by a ban on minarets.”

I don’t need to outrun the dog. I just need to outrun you.

42

noel 11.30.09 at 7:16 pm

I am from switzerland and the shit from the hole wold about we swiss people as a nation are all racist and moslem haters makes me angry! swizterland is a small country and as such we must protect our freedom and your rights to do waht we think is importend! I my self votet yes to ban minarets! moslems still can practic there religion nobody forbidds them but they can do it without minarets and if they dont like it to bad leave if you want and go back from where you come its so simpel!

Noel

43

Mrs Tilton 11.30.09 at 7:20 pm

zdenekv,

that big scary dog that has you soiling your kex? You’re holding the binoculars backwards again.

There simply are not many Muslims in Switzerland — certainly not compared with its French and German neighbours. The majority come not from Arab lands or South Asia or Iran but from Europe — they are Slavs, and a handful of Albanians. Most of the rest are Turks; and very few Turks are radicalised Muslims. In fact, Muslims in Switzerland are not, as a group, especially religious.

As noted upthread, the parts of Switzerland with the highest concentrations of Muslim residents rejected the referendum. (Lest you draw the wrong inference from that fact, most of those Muslims will not have had a vote). Apparently the Swiss who actually live amongst Muslims are not scared by your dog though it lives next-door; it’s Alm-Öhi up in his alpine fastness, far away from the dog — and you, wherever you are — who are breaking out in a cold sweat.

44

zdenekv 11.30.09 at 7:26 pm

@ # 39 : “You appear to be equating Islam with the Nazi party and implying that it should be differentiated from other religions based presumably on your personal prejudices. What exactly pictures of Hitler and Churchill have to do with the debate is beyond me – except that Hitler (bad)… Churchill (good)… might be a good way to get the point across to Kemosabe.”

No , the idea was just to point out that just as there may be good reasons to ban some political parties ( communism or Nazism say ) and not others so there may be a good reason for banning some religions and not others. Must such a view be based only on one’s prejudices ? Well of course if one is committed to some sort moral nihilism as you seem to be ( there certainly are some hints of it in what you say ) then its prejudices all the way down I guess but I think such a view is incoherent and so I would not agree with you that banning Nazism or some forms of religion must be based solely on one’s prejudices.

45

Steve LaBonne 11.30.09 at 7:41 pm

Any “reason” for banning religions that exempted Christianity would be, right on its face, clearly based on pure prejudice.

46

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.30.09 at 7:48 pm

As noted upthread, the parts of Switzerland with the highest concentrations of Muslim residents rejected the referendum.

It sounds good, but not exactly true. It’s only true for Basel; the other cantons that voted No are the liberal (‘liberal’ in the US sense, cosmopolitan) Francophone cantons where Muslim population is relatively low.

47

zdenekv 11.30.09 at 7:58 pm

“Any “reason” for banning religions that exempted Christianity would be, right on its face, clearly based on pure prejudice.”

Not necessarily . Suppose that my reason for wanting to see some form of Islam banned is similar to the Czech argument re communism which says roughly that communism is incompatible with values entrenched in their constitution and that any political party which aims at undermining such values should be banned. If I could show that some forms of Islam are in the same boat vis a vis typical European constitution as Nazism is but that Christianity is not in the same boat then we would have a reason for banning one but not the other and interestingly prejudice does not enter the picture.

48

Jim Harrison 11.30.09 at 8:01 pm

I partly agree with Spinoza who believed in absolute religious freedom for individuals but proposed to put limits on particular sects because they were a danger to everybody’s liberty as well as to the peace of society. I don’t know about minarets, but Spinoza didn’t want the Calvinists or the Catholics or Lutherans building large and showy churches in his version of a republic. I wouldn’t go that far, but it seems to me that religions are rather like corporations, i.e., artificial persons, and like corporations, they should not be afforded the same rights as individuals, especially when they act, as they so often do, more as conspiracies or rackets than associations.

Note that I’m not endorsing the Swiss vote. Indeed, I think it was a mistake. I’m just pointing out that one can make a case for suppressing particular religions under certain circumstances or, at a minimum, for ending their current privileged status—immunity from taxation, etc.

49

Steve LaBonne 11.30.09 at 8:05 pm

If I could show that some forms of Islam are in the same boat vis a vis typical European constitution as Nazism is but that Christianity is not in the same boat

But you can’t, since modern liberal European polities were achieved precisely by fighting the political influence of Christian obscurantism and bloody-mindedness (and since there are plenty of bloody-minded Christians still with us- just ask the family of Dr. George Tiller.)

50

Steve LaBonne 11.30.09 at 8:06 pm

I’m just pointing out that one can make a case for suppressing particular religions under certain circumstances or, at a minimum, for ending their current privileged status—immunity from taxation, etc.

ALL religions should lose their privileged status.

51

Colin Danby 11.30.09 at 8:12 pm

What stands out in #s 47 & 48 is deliberate muddying of issues, between religious practice, political parties, and various things that a religious organization might do or not do. Let’s be clear that “Islam” is not an organization or a corporate body of any kind, and more than is Buddhism or Christianity.

What you have in the Swiss vote is a ban on a public sign of religious practice.

52

Colin Danby 11.30.09 at 8:13 pm

“and more” should be “any more”

53

Kathleen Lowrey 11.30.09 at 8:15 pm

Engels: nope, it’s a Guardian article (according to Kieran anyway, unless he got it wrong), so it does have something to do with the left.

Julia Onken as a “prominent feminist” : writer of self-help books (the feminist critique of this genre is well-known) &, according to a quick Google search, speaker at a conference on “development” hosted by a pharmaceutical company’s foundation. Hmm.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Switzerland’s feminists probably do not consider her a spokesperson.

54

engels 11.30.09 at 8:33 pm

Sorry, I misread the post. (It’s a bit confusing that Kieran doesn’t link to the article he quotes from…) I think it’s a fair point then (unless anyone here knows of some serious ‘prominent’ Swiss feminists who supported this.)

55

Martin Bento 11.30.09 at 9:22 pm

zdenekv, all you’re doing is coming up with hypotheticals to show why it might be reasonable to have a law like this for some possible religions or fears. Yes, there are rational fears and votes based on them can be rational, but fearing minarets seems irrational in the extreme. If the problem is Muslim oppression of women, then target that, but purely symbolic and stylistic items? Ridiculous.

56

zdenekv 11.30.09 at 9:29 pm

51 : “Let’s be clear that “Islam” is not an organization or a corporate body of any kind, and more than is Buddhism or Christianity….What you have in the Swiss vote is a ban on a public sign of religious practice.”

Agree , let’s be clear about the Swiss vote , but as far as the point I was making it still holds of course : if there are good reasons to ban a certain form of Islam from public sphere ( and the argument might run along the lines of the Czech argument for banning communism that I glossed just now ) then that very same argument could underwrite a ban on public displays of signs / symbols of this religious practice, just as the general argument for banning communism / Nazism also underwrites reason for banning public displays of say hammer and sickle or building massive swastika sculptures in public. Because of this connection ( public displays that are sign of some practice or other are wrong *because* the practice itself is wrong ) the point I was making becomes relevant.

57

zdenekv 11.30.09 at 9:44 pm

55 “fearing minarets seems irrational ….”

Of course one doesn’t fear the minarets themselves. The argument, rather, is that one fears the underlying religious practice of which the minarets are a public sign and one wants to ban the public display only because they have this symbolic association with the practice itself. Assuming that the practice is wrong then the public displays of symbols that represent it are also wrong ( Nazism and Hitler salute , communism and hammer & sickle etc. ).

58

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.30.09 at 9:55 pm

It seems far from obvious that this has a lot to do with fear of Islam, rational or irrational. They just don’t like it when things change; they are provincial, they are conservative. If you start building 100-feet tall crucifixes there, I suspect they might want to ban that too.

59

Substance McGravitas 11.30.09 at 10:04 pm

They just don’t like it when things change

Perhaps they should have passed a broader referendum regarding things changing then.

60

Seeds 11.30.09 at 10:12 pm

Tariq Ramadan makes an interesting claim, which, if true, allows us to ignore the “it’s all about the architecture” arguments:

The minarets are but a pretext – the UDC wanted first to launch a campaign against the traditional Islamic methods of slaughtering animals but were afraid of testing the sensitivity of Swiss Jews, and instead turned their sights on the minaret as a suitable symbol.

I have some familiar with Switzerland through close Swiss friends, and the UDC is certainly a very unpleasant, xenophobic group of wingnuts with a nasty line in posters – they were also responsible for the campaign with white sheep kicking a black sheep of a Swiss flag, which caused so much controversy a few years ago.

Having said that, I don’t think his defence of European Islam is particularly appropriate (for me, it’s enough to point out the motivation behind the referendum and he could and should have emphasised that). Nor is his analysis of Muslim integration in Europe particularly helpful. Particularly, I don’t think his argument that Muslims are “targeted” through “topics” is very clear:

Every European country has its specific symbols or topics through which European Muslims are targeted. In France it is the headscarf or burka; in Germany, mosques; in Britain, violence; cartoons in Denmark; homosexuality in the Netherlands – and so on. It is important to look beyond these symbols and understand what is really happening[...]

This is a short paragraph that takes a range of complex issues and then dismisses them all to concentrate exclusively on problems of national identity in contemporary Europe. Of course those “symbols” are a gift to racists wanting to lay all of Europe’s problems at the door of the Muslims, but there’s more to some of these controversies than Islamophobia. It seems a bit sneaky to conflate one specific, overtly-racist campaign with every instance in which traditional Islamic values conflict with those of Western Europe.

61

Seeds 11.30.09 at 10:14 pm

It seems far from obvious that this has a lot to do with fear of Islam, rational or irrational. They just don’t like it when things change; they are provincial, they are conservative. If you start building 100-feet tall crucifixes there, I suspect they might want to ban that too.

In Wallis/Valais there are plenty of large, mountaintop crucifixes.

62

Martin Bento 11.30.09 at 10:41 pm

zdenekv, you have done no more to establish that Islam is wrong than to establish that minarets are dangerous. As for the Czech lustrace laws, those are stupid too, but at least people are reacting to a history of actual oppression, not a fear of prospective oppression that seems very far-fetched for the foreseeable future. And, even given that, Czech anti-communist laws are illegitimate. And, yes, I would also say that about prohibition of Nazi expression in Germany, though I’m probably in the minority here on that.

63

Decman 11.30.09 at 10:41 pm

After all the philosophising and high brow debate, the opinions of Noel are most relevant to the discussion. If the people of Switzerland fear a future with a landscape dotted with minarets and the social impact that would have, then that fear, whether well-founded or ludicrous, is the reality. They are fully entitled to decide what future path their country should take. Personally, when I go to Switzerland for a holiday the last thing I would want to see are minarets. They would be incongruous with the history and culture of a beautiful country.

64

engels 11.30.09 at 10:49 pm

Henri, are you saying that the real motivation for most people who voted for this was architectural conservatism?

65

Zip 11.30.09 at 11:10 pm

Growing numbers of people are learning to dislike Islam, don’t have to like it, and given the choice don’t want it in our secular countries.

Its as simple as that – its a free world, at least the non Islamic one is free – and until the worldwide anger, resentment, intolerance, hostility and violence of Islam changes, I predict more people will object to any increase of Islam in the West.

How dare these people moan and complain, when Islamic countries have nothing like the tolerance and generosity extended to them when they come to live in non Islamic countries.

66

Seeds 11.30.09 at 11:15 pm

Personally, when I go to Switzerland for a holiday the last thing I would want to see are minarets. They would be incongruous with the history and culture of a beautiful country.

From here:

The Saracens invaded the Valais in 939. Many names of places and mountains (Allalin, Monte-Moro among others) probably came into being at this time and still now recall this era.

67

dave heasman 11.30.09 at 11:18 pm

Bongo says “Unlike the RC firm, Islam doesn’t have a history for example of institutional child abuse that crossed borders and went to the highest levels.”

Maybe not across borders, but I think it does in Iran.

68

Ex-PD 11.30.09 at 11:18 pm

“Personally, when I go to Switzerland for a holiday the last thing I would want to see are minarets. They would be incongruous with the history and culture of a beautiful country.”

This is the best reason to amend a constitution to limit religious expression I’ve ever come across. Won’t someone think of the tourism?!

69

Steve LaBonne 11.30.09 at 11:31 pm

They just don’t like it when things change; they are provincial, they are conservative.

If the world were about to end I would go to Switzerland. Everything there is 50 years behind the times. -Heine

70

Bongo Bains 11.30.09 at 11:32 pm

#58… Henri: If you start building 100-feet tall crucifixes there, I suspect they might want to ban that too.

Henri… have you seen the minnies in Switzerland? The ones in Zurich and Geneva wouldn’t even intimidate Ron Jeremy. Let’s not get carried away. Minaret angst in Switzerland is based on paranoia. This ban is a product of the reactive mind.

Your 100-foot crucifixes are non-threatening compared to a 2 foot minaret. Jesus is on the team dontcha know.

71

Jillian C. York 12.01.09 at 4:33 am

You’re an idiot.

1) There are four mosques in Switzerland, total.
2) Only 20% of the Swiss Muslim population self-identify as practicing Muslims
3) Almost none of the Muslim women in Switzerland cover their faces.

72

zdenekv 12.01.09 at 5:31 am

Martin Bento 62

“As for the Czech lustrace laws, those are stupid too…Czech anti-communist laws are illegitimate…I would also say that about prohibition of Nazi expression in Germany.”

What about NSP ( new slavery party) , LKHP ( lets kill homos party ) or the LBBTP ( lets bring back torture party ) and many others ? Do you think such parties should be allowed ? Note that such parties –if they existed– would seek committing serious crimes and would also commit it while promoting their policies in media etc. because in promoting themselves they would use hate speech , but so do the Nazis and the communists both of whom want laws that would be in breach of most European constitutions . Assuming that you would be against allowing LKHP , say, why would you want to ban it but not the Nazi/ communist party ? Why are Nazis/ communists allowed to promote crime agenda but not the LKHP ?

73

zdenekv 12.01.09 at 6:49 am

Martin Bento

“… Czech anti-communist laws are illegitimate.”

Which ones , just the so called ‘lustracni zakon’ c 451 / 1991 or all of them including the c 198/1993 ? ( ‘ Zákon o protiprávnosti komunistického režimu a o odporu proti němu ‘, § 2, sec. 2a of this key legislation says explicitly that the KSČ and similar organization based on communist ideology were and are criminal organizations ) which is different and which was accepted by the Czech parliament in 1993 and tested by the CZ constitutional court when it rejected a challenge to it in 1993 . Note that this 1993 law was also the basis of a Prague high court judgement in 2007 outlawing KSM ( Czech analogue of komsomol ) ; in other words the law has been now tested too.

74

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.01.09 at 7:18 am

I’m certainly not saying that architectural conservatism accounts for all of it, but if it only accounts for 15-20% of the vote, that’s the difference between winning and losing.

Which is also a response to Tariq Ramadan’ ” the minarets are but a pretext”: of course they are, but isn’t it also important that their wingers need a pretext to get a majority, they can’t openly go Daniel Pipes.

75

bad Jim 12.01.09 at 8:04 am

This comment from Ramadan is rather strange: “Every European country has its specific symbols or topics through which European Muslims are targeted … homosexuality in the Netherlands – and so on.” Perhaps he’s referring to this incident:

In a televised debate in 2002, “Fortuyn baited the Muslim cleric by flaunting his homosexuality. Finally the imam exploded, denouncing Fortuyn in strongly anti-homosexual terms. Fortuyn calmly turned to the camera and, addressing viewers directly, told them that this is the kind of Trojan horse of intolerance the Dutch are inviting into their society in the name of multiculturalism.”

So the Netherlands is targeting Muslims by objecting to their homophobia? That’s one hell of a grievance.

76

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.01.09 at 8:27 am

…also in the poster above, I don’t see any missiles and abused women there; what I see is something foreign, exotic, something producing visual dissonance with what Switzerland looks like. If I was designing a poster for the opposition, I would have that woman milking a cow and minaret would look like an organic part of a typical Swiss landscape; it would be shaped similar to their typical church bell tower, a bit lower, and half-way from the village center.

77

JoB 12.01.09 at 8:31 am

Henri, I like you when you put a positive spin; you’re right, it is good they still need the pretext but it’s not very comforting to know that this is the way hatred always grows, it always grows from pretext to pretext in small baby-steps until nobody can understand anymore why what’s going on is gross.

PS: by the way, in Belgium there are 2 minarets, apparently, both on the same mosque, & it’s not allowed to call for prayer from there (although talks are underway to allow it in for turistical purposes!) & nobody really worries about a ban because, in the end, all agree that existing legislation on building regulation will avoid any further minarets.

78

Martin Bento 12.01.09 at 8:37 am

zdenekv, I mean all of the laws prohibiting communist parties from seeking office in the Czech Republic, or Czechoslovakia, as it was when this fight began. I know these have been tested in Czech courts. I’m not bound to agree with the opinion of any court, so I don’t give a damn. People have a right to advocate social1sm, and to seek office democratically on that basis. If they have a criminal past, they should be imprisoned, but their political rights should not be inhibited. As for your ridiculous hypothetical parties, well, they are ridiculous hypotheticals, but, as far as it goes, if they commit crimes in the course of their advocacy of crime, they should be prosecuted. Bringing back torture is obviously a respectable opinion in the American Republican Party and not beyond the pale in the Democratic one. The Family, an American religious cult with ties to the elites of both parties, but especially the Republican, is pushing a law to execute homosexuals in Uganda right now. So your attempt at reduction to the absurd actually hits on things that are quite thinkable in the United States.

Now let’s get back to Earth. What basis is there for the position that it is dangerous to society to allow Muslims to build minarets?

79

Bongo Bains 12.01.09 at 9:23 am

#63 – Decman said : “Personally, when I go to Switzerland for a holiday the last thing I would want to see are minarets. They would be incongruous with the history and culture of a beautiful country.”

Don’t mean to rock your boat Decman – but there are Hindu temples in Switzerland, Buddhist temples, ashrams, Wiccan retreats… there are also sights that might muck up your idyllic Julie Andrewesque vision such as Hells Angels club houses, McDonalds restaurants, probably a peeler bar or two. Switzerland isn’t a dimension unto itself stuck in a time warp, where Heidi continually runs up and down an Alpine meadow ringing cow bells.

The only thing jarring about a mosque in Switzerland is your perception of it. Henri gave a rather eloquent description of the poster he would like to have seen #75.

From a purely aesthetic point-of-view minarets would actually look rather mystical and magical with an Alpine backdrop. I could really dig that without necessarily digging Allah, just as I have an appreciation for Hindu temples without necessarily digging Kali or Vishnu.

From a purely architectural perspective, minarets are very beautiful. They aren’t always the pointy missile-like projectiles depicted in the poster. In Morocco and Egypt there are square and octagonal minarets – some with projecting murkanas. There is considerable variation in minaret design.

The idea that they are symbolic of the oppression of women and religious triumphalism etc is a loaded fear-based projection. There are aspects of Islamic thinking that I personally find objectionable and that need to be challenged, but banning minarets isn’t the way to do it. European citizens who happen to be Muslim should have every right to practice their religion as they see fit without being treated as second class citizens. Treating them in a blatantly discriminatory fashion is simply feeding the shadow that the minaret-banners so obviously fear.

80

zdenekv 12.01.09 at 9:36 am

“As for your ridiculous hypothetical parties, well, they are ridiculous hypotheticals, but, as far as it goes, if they commit crimes in the course of their advocacy of crime, they should be prosecuted.”

You are missing the point. The point is to highlight that your position might be incoherent : you accept criminalizing some parties ( my hypothetical but explicitly criminal outfits ) because they promote crime but not others even though they also promote crime and moreover have history of doing so on industrial scale . The point is to draw attention to this upside-downness / inconsistency in your position which I think is interesting and worth pondering. That my examples involve completely hypothetical cases is neither here nor there for the purposes of probing your position and similar positions .

81

zdenekv 12.01.09 at 9:57 am

M.Bento

“Now let’s get back to Earth. What basis is there for the position that it is dangerous to society to allow Muslims to build minarets?”

Sure. The strongest argument I think is same as the argument why symbols of human rights violations such Hitler statues and wearing SS uniforms in public or making Hitler salutes should be criminalized . Minarets too are symbols of human rights violations and hence they too should not be erected. Are minarets dangerous ? Well, is it dangerous if a highschool teacher to come to work dressed in an SS uniform and this is not done as a joke but is an expression of her firm belief that Jews should be murdered etc. ? It may not be dangerous in any obvious way but such display would still be wrong and. Same reasoning might apply to the minaret case.

82

alex 12.01.09 at 11:15 am

So, coming down to brass tacks, apart from either liking or not liking the Swiss vote, is anyone proposing a practical course of action? Other than getting het up with each other over points of quasi-sophistical interpretation of the putative racial content of varying forms of religious discrimination?

BTW, lots of things are “symbols of human rights violations”. George Washington owned slaves, should we pull down the Washington Monument, or change the name of the capital of the USA? Occupants of the Palace of Westminster presided over the suppression of the 1857 Mutiny/Rebellion, the Irish Famine, and the Amritsar Massacre. Should it be pulled down in contrition?

83

ajay 12.01.09 at 11:23 am

Every European country has its specific symbols or topics through which European Muslims are targeted. In France it is the headscarf or burka; in Germany, mosques; in Britain, violence; cartoons in Denmark; homosexuality in the Netherlands – and so on.

Hmm. One of these things is not like the others.

84

Seeds 12.01.09 at 11:37 am

Hmm. One of these things is not like the others.

Thats’s what I meant about this paragraph – it’s sloppy. Presumably this is shorthand for “fear of violence and terrorism” or something like that, because the debate about Islam in Britain hasn’t polarised around a single issue (yet). But instead of going on to talk about why this might be, or how far-right parties in Europe have seized on particular aspects of Islam to attack, he skips straight to how Europeans don’t really know what to think about their own identity. True, and an important factor, but not the whole picture. And in the context of the minaret story, not that crucial. My impression of Switzerland is that that they have a strong sense of national identity.

85

zdenekv 12.01.09 at 11:59 am

“BTW, lots of things are “symbols of human rights violations”. George Washington owned slaves, should we pull down the Washington Monument…”

I dont think so . Hitler was born in Austria but he is not a symbol of Austria , Himmler was a policeman but he is not a symbol of what it is to be a policeman , Kant had a man servant but Kant is not a symbol of what it is to employ man servants and so on. Similarly Washington may have owned slaves but he is not a symbol of slavery or what it is to own slaves. The reason for this is simple : representation that we are talking about is conventional and there is no such convention which would link ( fix the reference ) Washington and slavery so that it would make sense to talk about him symbolizing slavery in the way in which Hitler salute symbolizes such abuse.

86

ajay 12.01.09 at 12:06 pm

83: yes, quite. If he’s trying to say “there is a common pattern of discrimination across Europe, in which bigots in each country pick a different harmless feature of Islam to demonise” then “violence” doesn’t really fit. Nor does “homosexuality” – though, as noted above, I think it’s probably true that Tariq Ramadan thinks the gays are being gay solely in order to annoy him.

87

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 12.01.09 at 12:11 pm

Minarets too are symbols of human rights violations and hence they too should not be erected

Funny, I’d be more interested in dealing with, y’know, actual human rights violations than, say, symbols of them. But I’m old fashioned like that, and it’s much easier to deal with a symbol, isn’t it?

88

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 12.01.09 at 12:16 pm

“The reason for this is simple : representation that we are talking about is conventional and there is no such convention which would link”

Interesting. So a ban on minarets because you think that conventionally, the first thing people would thing when they saw it is “That is a symbol of human rights violations” than, say “that is a symbol of Islam”? Does this mean that Islam necessarily represents human rights violations, in your view?

89

Chris Bertram 12.01.09 at 12:17 pm

Remarkably, the Wikipedia entry on “minaret” concentrates almost entirely on its architectural character and neglects its role as a symbol of human rights violations.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minaret

I do hope that zdnek will head over there and correct this. Of course, he’ll have to do a bit of research so that this claim is properly sourced.

90

zdenekv 12.01.09 at 12:33 pm

“Remarkably, the Wikipedia entry on “minaret” concentrates almost entirely on its architectural character and neglects its role as a symbol of human rights violations.”

And similarly if you look at the Wikipedia entry on ‘communism’ you will not see that there is a conventional link being established between it and human rights violations in countries like Czech Republic and Poland via number of legal mechanism but it is starting to emerge all the same. Same may be true re ‘minaret’.

91

Salient 12.01.09 at 1:00 pm

Minarets too are symbols of human rights violations and hence they too should not be erected.

I find this incomprehensible, unless you likewise advocate for the prohibition of Roman Catholic iconography on the grounds that the institution enabled and covered up a systemic problem of child abuse. Does the argument run that hard-line right-wing Islam imams advocate, for example, honor killings and acid attacks on unsubmissive women and forced marriages, and generally speaking the opposite of women’s rights, and therefore we should ban public displays of Islamic iconography?

I don’t think that’s what was on noel’s mind, for example, voting for the ban. I don’t think that’s what was on the Swiss People’s Party’s mind, when they set the referendum in motion. And insofar as speaking up for women’s rights is the goal, it strikes me that a direct approach would be more valuable and more productive: a referendum which asserts the Swiss stand in opposition to forced marriage and brutalization of women, and Switzerland will therefore reduce its trade in some specified way with countries whose governments accommodate those practices, would more directly force the issue.

However, I suspect, more or less exactly as Kieran so brilliantly quips, that any talk of women’s rights is just cover for raw xenophobia. (And Kathleen’s point seems spot on: the ‘prominent feminists’ include, and so far as I can tell are basically limited to, one Julia Onken.)

92

Pete 12.01.09 at 1:56 pm

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.
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-105816362.html

Or go read how a small church built by the natives of Malaysia (orang asli) was demolished.
http://johnny-ong.blogspot.com/2007/07/orang-asli-church-demolished.html

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

Look at how Muslim majority countries treat the minority religious groups.
I am not calling for revenge but balanced reporting.

So, jaffa Cohen’s comment: “tolerant Islamic countries like Malaysia”, is quite interesting to me.

93

Chris E 12.01.09 at 2:05 pm

Regardless of my feelings about Daniel Pipes and others on the right, Tariq Ramadan dissembles and says silly things often enough that I wouldn’t want to be associated with him simply in order to oppose Pipes et al.

94

engels 12.01.09 at 2:59 pm

If you Google ‘feminists minarets Switzerland’ all the results on the first few pages seem to cite either the Times article linked in the post (with its unnamed ‘radical feminist’ supporters of the motion) or Ms Onken. I’d be very grateful if anyone with any knowledge of Swiss politics could say if there is anything more to it than that.

95

roac 12.01.09 at 3:36 pm

Defenders of this vote on various blogs have stated the view the voters are sending a righteous message that they disapprove of suicide bombing, honor killing, female genital mutilation, decapitation of infidels, etc., etc. I would be interested to know — not as a debating point, I would really like to know — whether there is any evidence that any Muslim in Switzerland has engaged in any of these activities. Including the etces. Anyone have knowledge?

96

Seeds 12.01.09 at 4:09 pm

roac:

As far as my (very limited) knowledge of Swiss politics extends, the problems associated with the Muslim population in Switzerland are limited to an increase in petty crime that could be expected from a relatively poor refugee population that has been afforded fewer educational opportunities than the native Swiss. As it is very hard indeed to settle in Switzerland unless you are very rich, very entrepreneurial, very Swiss by extraction or an asylum seeker, the majority of the Muslims in Switzerland arrived as a result of Balkan conflict and enjoy a marginally lower standard of living than that enjoyed by the indigenous population. So anti-Muslim sentiment is probably as much anti-immigrant (fear of crime) as it is racial (fear of people that look differently to you) or cultural (fear of sharia law, terrorism, unsuitable architectural, etc).

However, I’m not exaggerating about my knowledge being limited – if anyone wants to set me straight, please do.

97

ajay 12.01.09 at 4:19 pm

95: no idea – but a quick search brings up the name of Ahmed Huber, an authentic, bona fide, no hyperbole Swiss Islamonazi*. So there is (or rather was) one actually out there…

*bonus right-wing paranoia points: also supporter of Ayatollah Khomeini!

98

Mrs Tilton 12.01.09 at 5:20 pm

So, basically, Pete @92 thinks we in the post-Christian West should aspire to the same standards of liberty and human rights as in the Islamic world. Aim for the stars, Pete!

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.

Substitute “Germany” for “Malaysia” and “mosque” for “church”, and that sounds pretty much like the situation where I live.

99

Mrs Tilton 12.01.09 at 5:25 pm

ajay @97,

given that Ahmed’s surname is “Huber”, I’d venture that the problems he has caused are not those typically associated with immigration. But I’d also venture that few of Switzerland’s other Muslims bear such splendidly eidgenössische handles.

100

ajay 12.01.09 at 5:33 pm

99: yes, if you look him up, Ahmed Huber was a bit of an outlier in a lot of ways, not least being definitely a few pistes short of an Alp, as I believe they put it down the cantons. My point was really to remark on just how odd (and rare) a creature a Swiss Islamonazi really is…

101

roac 12.01.09 at 5:37 pm

Damn. Literally an Islamonazi! And the Wikipedia article identifies three others. I can’t bring myself to follow the links.

102

roac 12.01.09 at 5:52 pm

OK, I overcame my repugnance. Johann von Leer (German) apparently remained a Nazi after escaping to Egypt and converting to Islam, so OK. David Myatt, with whom Brits must be familiar though I wasn’t, claims to have stopped being a Nazi when he became a Muslim (of the objectionable persuasion). Information concerning the late-life conversion of Otto Heim, aka Dr. Death (Austrian) is insufficient. So as a Swiss Islamonazi, Huber remains a hapax as far as current information goes.

103

sun12112 12.01.09 at 6:28 pm

“By far the majority of Muslims in the world live in tolerant Islamic countries like Malaysia, India, and Indonesia.(refer blog #1 jaffa cohen )
1st things first india is not an islamic country . secondly no muslim country is tolerant . thirdly treatment met out to muslims in western countries is way better den hw non muslims are treated in islamic countries . so muslims in western countries should stop whining upon dese petty matters

104

Natilo Paennim 12.01.09 at 7:36 pm

103: 1st things first india is not an islamic country

That’s right. It was sensibly partitioned so that all the Muslims would go live in Pakistan, with only a moderate loss of life — just several hundred thousand people! Looking at the region today, it’s clear that religious segregation really does work. Those Swiss might be onto something!

105

Martin Bento 12.01.09 at 7:41 pm

zdenekv, you are missing the point. I explicitly did not “accept criminalizing some parties ( my hypothetical but explicitly criminal outfits ) because they promote crime”, I said they should be prosecuted if they *commit* crime. I explicitly condemned laws in Germany against Nazi expression, and I pointed out that one of your ridiculous hypotheticals, legalization of torture, is the position, though sometimes stated euphemistically, of the American Republican Party, and another, slaughter of homosexuals, is actively promoted by a religious organization that includes prominent members, including sitting Congressmen, of both parties, but mostly the Republican. You notice I did not endorse banning the Republican Party on these bases.

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Suhail Mustafa 12.01.09 at 7:53 pm

Swiss ruling have invited undue attention and now will attract race/religion based crimes against each other. This makes the life of a common European/American Muslims hard. All they want to do is make a good living for their families and the mosque brings tranquility and balance in their busy lives and spirituality.
Minarets are not even a essential part of the mosque. Banning the Minarets is a provocation to otherwise law abiding citizens.
As an American Muslim I am disgusted by this ruling. Its like saying Christians cannot have crosses in the churches in the Muslim country or even worst. I bet within 2 years there will be 40 minarets in Switzerland just because of this ruling.
I hope Swiss will come back to their senses and if they really want to solve issues engage in dialog with Swiss Muslim Community leaders.

107

Cédric 12.01.09 at 8:10 pm

I am Swiss and I am totally disgusted by this vote. The extreme-right and
Populists have taken the people for idiots and they frightened a part of the population by mixing wrong things (by example : “if we do not ban the minarets, all women should wear the burka” or “if we do not ban the minarets, Sharia will move in Switzerland”…).
It’s frightening to see that almost 60% of swiss people are ok to be taken for morons.

108

Cecilie 12.01.09 at 11:11 pm

Roac: Why wait for the evidence to come to Switzerland when you can just look to France, Britain, Germany and Denmark for plenty of examples of crimes committed in the name of islam (yes, in the name of – NOT just because they are put-upon immigrants with fewer resources than the indigenous population and therefore must be forgiven if they steal and rob a little, according to Seeds)
I believe these countries’ mosques (gathering places for muslims learning about how to wage jihad against the people who have kindly taken them in) have more minarets now than church spires. And yes, they do look like nukes, funnily enough. Why? Because the very nature of islam is and has always been, warmongering and subjugation of others.

This Swiss ban is not about lack of religious freedom (let’s not go into what kind of religious freedom any foreign settler in a muslim country should expect) but about a European country’s population sensibly putting their foot down against a very real threat, built on what they’ve seen happening in other European countries.
And that ridiculous word, “islamophobia.” What – we haven’t seen enough of what these people will do from 9/11 onwards to be just a tiny little bit nervous when they’re around?
In fact, isn’t islamophobia (a fear of being beheaded if you laugh at something) the very reason why politicians all over the western world are now bending over backwards to please these throwbacks to the middle ages?
Well done, Swiss people!

If your neighbours constantly got burgled, wouldn’t you think about locking your own doors a little bit more carefully?

109

Martin Bento 12.01.09 at 11:28 pm

I guess I should point out that there is such a thing as conspiracy to commit crime, and that is where political parties advocating crime can legitimately get into trouble. Advocacy in the abstract of illegal acts is another matter.

110

Bongo Bains 12.02.09 at 12:32 am

Cedric – thank you.

111

Bongo Bains 12.02.09 at 1:17 am

#92 Pete: “Look at how Muslim majority countries treat the minority religious groups.”

#65 Zip: “How dare these people moan and complain, when Islamic countries have nothing like the tolerance and generosity extended to them…”

This redundant sentiment keeps surfacing in debates like this.

Obviously western democratic countries have political and cultural histories that are unique to their perspective and have ended up with a distinct set values enshrined in their constitutions that safeguard rights and freedoms. Equally obviously this is not the case in countries with theocratic governance to varying degrees.

So it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

An insistence on making this linkage and saying “well look what they do!” is a cop-out. If western democracies start voting to cut back the rights of Muslims because ‘Saudi Arabia does it to Christians’ or some such rationale, that is the same as bringing yourself down to the Saudi level of oppressive control.

The whole point is to up the ante and demonstrate that it is possible for civilized virtues to win out in multi-religious societies, without resorting to repressive tactics that diminish the rights and dignity of European Muslims. Yes it’s hard. Yes it’s challenging. But it’s the right thing to do.

112

Mrs Tilton 12.02.09 at 1:53 am

Cecilie @108,

Why wait for the evidence to come to Switzerland when you can just look to France, Britain, Germany and Denmark for plenty of examples of crimes committed in the name of islam (yes, in the name of – NOT just because they are put-upon immigrants with fewer resources than the indigenous population and therefore must be forgiven if they steal and rob a little, according to Seeds)

Having lived almost all my adult life in Germany, I believe I can speak to conditions in that country. There have been crimes committed here in (to use Cecilie’s somewhat fevered formulation) “the name of Islam”. There just haven’t been many. There haven’t been many at all — to a first approximation, in fact, there have been none, and certainly very few indeed compared with the many murders and assaults perpetrated out by “Aryan” mouthbreathers against people foolish enough to be dusky of hue (or handicapped; nazis like to beat up and kill the disabled nearly as much as the like attacking foreigners).

Better nazi trolls, please.

113

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 12.02.09 at 9:47 am

Gosh, it’s so good that we have an evil enemy we can project all the worst habits on humanity onto (without any of the redeemable virtues) again!

114

Bloix 12.02.09 at 2:17 pm

“Obviously western democratic countries have political and cultural histories that are unique to their perspective and have ended up with a distinct set values enshrined in their constitutions that safeguard rights and freedoms. Equally obviously this is not the case in countries with theocratic governance to varying degrees.”

Obviously the Swiss don’t share the “distinct set of values” that you think they should share. They have a different set of values that you don’t share. Their values concern maintenance of the existing order, including the visual appearance of that order. The fact that you don’t like their values doesn’t mean that their values don’t exist.

Seriously, what is it about freedom of religion? Most of us here would agree, I think, that Islam is a tissue of lies: the world was not created by an all-powerful supernatural being, there are no angels, Mohammad was not divinely inspired, there is no heaven, there will be no judgment day. So why is it so important that the desire of some people to erect monuments to error trump the desire of other people to preserve the appearance of their towns?

115

Bongo Bains 12.02.09 at 6:33 pm

#114 Bloix says: “Obviously the Swiss don’t share the “distinct set of values” that you think they should share. They have a different set of values that you don’t share. Their values concern maintenance of the existing order, including the visual appearance of that order. The fact that you don’t like their values doesn’t mean that their values don’t exist.”

Yes the Swiss do indeed share those values if you bother to look at their constitution, which clearly guarantees freedom of religious expression to all. One vote driven to a large degree by fear mongering doesn’t in itself allow for the conclusion that the Swiss have now decisively turned their back on those rights and freedoms. It is still early days.

It should be noted that the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Neuchatel and Basel voted against the ban.

Cedric #107, is a Swiss national who rejected the anti-minaret vote. He said “It’s frightening to see that almost 60% of Swiss people are ok to be taken for morons.”

#114 Bloix: “Seriously, what is it about freedom of religion? Most of us here would agree, I think, that Islam is a tissue of lies: the world was not created by an all-powerful supernatural being, there are no angels, Mohammad was not divinely inspired, there is no heaven, there will be no judgment day. So why is it so important that the desire of some people to erect monuments to error trump the desire of other people to preserve the appearance of their towns?”

I don’t believe in the tenets of Islam either, any more than I believe in the fantasies and delusions promoted by Vatican smoke and mirrors. But that isn’t the point. The point is that many beliefs – religious and otherwise – can be seen as “mistaken” by me, you and others. But if we propose to operate a society on the basis of what we consider to be either true or false, and then ban what we personally don’t believe in, we are no longer talking about democracy.

Let us keep in mind what we are actually talking about here.The Muslim population of Switzerland accounts for a mere 0.5% of the total population. There are only 4 mosques in the entire country with so-called ‘minarets’. The Ahmadiyya mosque in Zurich has a smallish minnie that would be unlikely to intimidate anyone except reactionary refusniks looking for the opportunity to bitch.

Amazingly this whole absurd tempest-in-a-teapot began not in reference to minarets on actual mosques. It started in Wangen bei Olten, where a row broke out over the decision of the Turkish cultural association to put a 6-meter high structure on its roof that sort of resembles a minaret – although I have seen similar type structures on ornate Victorian style buildings. However since it was somewhat pointy and lacked a weathervane the locals felt threatened apparently.

The Turkish association was discriminated against from the word go – and bear in mind we are talking about a cultural building. Local authorities blocked the building application. The Turks had to bring their case to the Justice Department before the decision was remanded. But even so the local xenophobes dug in and pushed the case all the way to the Administrative Court of the Canton of Solothurn, where they failed with their appeal. This decision was later affirmed by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court. So in the end justice and sanity prevailed.

The targeting of the Turkish cultural association by local reactionaries clearly demonstrates that this hysteria in Switzerland, isn’t in fact just related to concerns about Islam – it goes beyond that to the targeting of Muslim people and their associations – in general.

116

Seeds 12.02.09 at 8:58 pm

Why wait for the evidence to come to Switzerland when you can just look to France, Britain, Germany and Denmark for plenty of examples of crimes committed in the name of islam (yes, in the name of – NOT just because they are put-upon immigrants with fewer resources than the indigenous population and therefore must be forgiven if they steal and rob a little, according to Seeds)

That’s not what I said. Either you misunderstood, or you are misrepresenting my point of view. I said that this vote could well be motivated by issues related to immigration, rather than Islam in particular – it’s just that, happily for reactionaries, many asylum seekers in Switzerland are Muslim.

In your first paragraph, you seem to be implicitly accepting that this is a vote against Islam, rather than in favour of archictural preservation. So why is it so much of a leap to accept that this could be a vote against asylum seekers, rather than Islam?

I believe these countries’ mosques (gathering places for muslims learning about how to wage jihad against the people who have kindly taken them in) have more minarets now than church spires. And yes, they do look like nukes, funnily enough. Why? Because the very nature of islam is and has always been, warmongering and subjugation of others.

Interesting. In this paragraph you (presumably disingenuously) take the vote’s substance at face-value: the problem is the minarets. Do you have any evidence that there are more minarets than spires in France, Britain, Germany and Denmark, or in even one of those countries? I would be astonished if this were the case. I’m not going to comment on the parallel between minarets and missiles, because it’s idiotic in every conceivable way.

Also, what Bongo Bains said to Bloix. We are not talking about headbanging Wahhabis trying to convert Switzerland to a theocracy. We are talking about casual racism in Swiss towns with negligible Muslim populations.

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Danny Yee 12.02.09 at 11:56 pm

Lanny. It seems church steeples may have derived from minarets, not the other way around! http://www.chapatimystery.com/archives/imperial_watch/from_minaret_to_steeple.html

118

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 12.03.09 at 10:29 am

Danny – Oh, that is just precious.

We must destroy these “stealth minarets” before they start circumcising halal meat thanks to SHARIA! Or something.

119

Bloix 12.03.09 at 2:01 pm

FSC-
Halal slaughter is already illegal in Switzerland (as is kosher slaughter), and has been for over 100 years. Also in Sweden, Norway and Iceland.

120

George Berger 12.07.09 at 10:27 pm

This voting result shocked the hell out of me and put me in a bad mood for a day. That of course is neither here nor there. I am a permanent resident of Sweden who has lived for nearly 37 years in the Netherlands. In that time I have been constantly exposed to racist and xenophobic utterances and fights (I was beaten up in 1997 by a taxidriver who took me for a “fucking turk”). Until this Swiss vote I considered Holland to be the most horridly racist (etc) nation in the EU. Well, Switzerland is in economic association with the EU, so let’s stretch things a bit and give Switzerland pride of place in that association. More seriously, these two countries now disgust me. I was born in America, disliked its way of life, and had high hopes for Europe. As of last week they are now FULLY trashed.

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