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Swiss minaret ban

November 30, 2009

Not Maghreb related per se, but one can’t just let this pass without comment:

Frankfurt – In what many see as a major setback to Europe’s effort to integrate its booming Muslim population – and a potential boost to right-wing parties throughout the continent – Swiss voters Sunday approved a move to ban the construction of new minarets in the country.

The Swiss government had urged voters to reject the ban, saying that it would violate religious freedom and human rights and intensify Islamic radicalism. But in Sunday’s referendum, which was organized by a right-wing political party, more than 57 percent of Swiss residents – a majority in 22 out of the country’s 26’s cantons – approved the proposal.

On the other hand, there’s not really a lot you can say about it either, except that this shouldn’t be taken as some minor aberration. For several years, parts of the Europen political landscape (not to mention the US Republican fringe, which is even loonier, but there are stronger constitutional safeguards there) has been sliding into clear-cut Islamophobic territory. Jew-bashing and other classic gimmicks are now a thing of the past: most far-right populists embrace Israel as a “Western outpost”, claim to have no racial prejudices, and now spend their days almost exclusively targeting Muslims, not on account of their religion, but because of what they call “Islam’s ideology”.

Of course it’s nonsense — they’re bigots, and that’s that. We’ve seen these people before, and apparently didn’t deal firmly enough with them in 1945, so here they are again. The new rhetoric seems to work like a charm, too, no matter how irrational their arguments (“‘Muslims don’t just practice religion, they increasingly make political and legal demands,’ said Walter Wobmann, who heads the initiative behind the referendum“), certainly helped along by their similarly bigoted counterparts in the Muslim world, and even more, I’m sure, by the social tensions raised by the economic crisis .

Conditions vary from country to country, of course — there’s no such thing as a “European debate”, whatever the EU may accomplish in the future — but the general trend is quite clear. Until recently, there was much beating around the bush, and talk about how it’s not really about hating Muslims, it’s just about fighting terrorism and supporting womens’ rights, and adopting a responsible immigration policy. Again, nonsense.

Now, the stage has been set, and here we go: Switzerland has actually voted for a law specifically and openly aimed at Muslims as a religious minority. The gloves are coming off, and this could get considerably worse in years to come.

As for me, I now count myself among the backers of Col. Qadhafi’s Great Popular De-Swissification Plan.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Levantine permalink
    November 30, 2009 04:34

    Appreciate the post. Very well written.

  2. December 2, 2009 19:23

    “We’ve seen these people before, and apparently didn’t deal firmly enough with them in 1945, so here they are again”
    Huh? What?! What’s going on?!?
    Ah, a referendum had an unwelcome outcome…

  3. December 3, 2009 11:24

    Yes. Some hyperbole aside, I don’t think a referendum designed to strip a religious minority of rights is a small matter.

  4. ibnkafka permalink
    December 4, 2009 12:06

    Re: Great Popular De-Swissification Plan – The Supreme Leader is always right…

    This issue shows that context is everything – in itself, there’s no religious requirement about mosques being ornated with a minaret, but the debate, its aims and its outcome make it undoubtedly islamophobic.

    One good side-effect is that the debate over whether there is such a notion as islamophobia is now hopefully dead and buried.

  5. December 4, 2009 14:01

    in itself, there’s no religious requirement about mosques being ornated with a minaret

    True, although there are also no particular reasons why a black man shouldn’t want to sit at the back of the bus…

    Most interesting question: what exactly do they mean by “minaret”? As Brian Whitaker points out, it can be a pole (no, not Pole) with a loudspeaker; and, as I understand it, they haven’t banned the actual crying of the adhan, just the architecture. Let’s just say I’m really looking forward to the text of the law.

  6. December 5, 2009 23:26

    Poor muslims… It is one big European conspiracy as the Swiss intellectual mr. Ramadan explains: “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 just horrible to just think about those Danes targeting Muslims with cartoons…!


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