Swiss minaret ban
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.