wiss Minarets Not Allowed to Broadcast Prayer Calls, Still, They’ve Been Banned

Almanar

30/11/2009 Swiss voters approved a ban on new mosque minarets being built, prompting dismay and anger in the Muslim world at the success of the far-right initiative.
The referendum to ban the minarets was approved Sunday by 57.5 percent of voters who cast ballots and in 22 out of the country’s 26 cantons.

Far-right politicians across Europe celebrated the results, while the Swiss government sought to assure the Muslim minority that a ban on minarets was “not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture.”
Minarets distinguish mosques and are traditionally used to call for prayers.

The far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) said that the minarets — of which Switzerland has only four and which are not allowed to broadcast the call to prayer — were not architectural features with religious characteristics, but symbolized a “political-religious claim to power, which challenges fundamental rights.”

The referendum’s approval was quickly condemned in the world’s most populous Muslim nations.
“This is the hatred of Swiss people against Muslim communities. They don’t want to see a Muslim presence in their country and this intense dislike has made them intolerant,” said Maskuri Abdillah, the head Indonesia’s biggest Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama.

Egypt’s Mufti Ali Gomaa denounced the ban on new minarets as an “insult” to Muslims across the world.
“This proposal … is not considered just an attack on freedom of beliefs, but also an attempt to insult the feelings of the Muslim community in and outside Switzerland,” he said.

Islam is the second largest religion in Switzerland after Christianity. Muslims in this country make up some five percent of the population.

A mosque in Geneva was vandalized three times during the anti-minaret campaign, local media reported Saturday.

Justice Minister Widmer-Schlumpf sought to reassure Muslims, saying: “It is not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture. Of that, the Federal Council gives its assurance.”
But for the 400,000-strong Muslim community, the harm has been done.
“The most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community,” said Farhad Afshar, who heads the Coordination of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland.

The Conference of Swiss Bishops also criticized the result, saying that it “heightens the problems of cohabitation between religions and cultures.”

Young people carrying candles and cardboard minarets led a mock funerary procession in the federal capital Bern, carrying a banner reading “This is not my Switzerland,” the ATS news agency reported.

Amnesty International said the minaret ban is a “violation of religious freedom, incompatible with the conventions signed by Switzerland.”

The Swiss Green party said it was contemplating lodging a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for violation of religious freedoms as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

In Morocco, a parliamentarian from the Justice and Development Islamist Party expressed surprise.

“I think that Muslims in Switzerland, and those who live in the European Union, have a lot of work to do in communication to show their real face of tolerance and cohabitation of Islam,” said Saad Eddine Othmani.

French far-right politician Marine Le Pen welcomed the outcome, saying that the “elites should stop denying the aspirations and fears of the European people, who, without opposing religious freedom, reject ostentatious signs that political-religious Muslim groups want to impose.”

“Switzerland is sending us a clear signal: yes to bell towers, no to minarets,” said Roberto Calderoli, minister of administrative simplification and a member of Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party, told the ANSA news agency.

However, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner condemned Switzerland’s referendum vote as a show of intolerance and said the decision should be reversed.
“I am a bit shocked by this decision,” Kouchner told RTL radio. “It is an expression of intolerance and I detest intolerance.

“I hope the Swiss will reverse this decision quickly,” he added.
Kouchner said “if we cannot build minarets that means that we are practicing religious oppression”.

“Is it really offensive that in a mountainous country there is a building that is a bit taller than the others?” he asked.
A senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party said Monday that the banning is a sign of a fear of Islam that also exists in Germany and must be “taken seriously.”
To criticize the outcome of the Swiss would be counterproductive. It reflects a fear of a growing Islamisation of society, and this fear must be taken seriously,” said Wolfgang Bosbach of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

SWITZERLAND FAR-RIGHT NOT WORRIED ABOUT MUSLIMS REACTION, BARGAINS ON HISTORIC ARAB AND MUSLIM PASSIVENESS

Meanwhile, SVP Vice-President Yvan Perrin cheered the fact that his party had won the vote “without difficulty.”

He told Radio Suisse Romande that Swiss companies should not worry about suffering from a possible backlash from Muslim countries.
“If our companies continue to make good quality products, they have nothing to worry about,” he said.

My compatriots’ vote to ban minarets is fuelled by fear

The Swiss have voted not against towers, but Muslims. Across Europe, we must stand up to the flame-fanning populists

tariq

Tariq Ramadan

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 29 November 2009 20.00 GMT

It wasn’t meant to go this way. For months we had been told that the efforts to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland were doomed. The last surveys suggested around 34% of the Swiss population would vote for this shocking initiative. Last Friday, in a meeting organised in Lausanne, more than 800 students, professors and citizens were in no doubt that the referendum would see the motion rejected, and instead were focused on how to turn this silly initiative into a more positive future.

Today that confidence was shattered, as 57% of the Swiss population did as the Union Démocratique du Centre (UDC) had urged them to – a worrying sign that this populist party may be closest to the people’s fears and expectations. For the first time since 1893 an initiative that singles out one community, with a clear discriminatory essence, has been approved in Switzerland. One can hope that the ban will be rejected at the European level, but that makes the result no less alarming. What is happening in Switzerland, the land of my birth?

There are only four minarets in Switzerland, so why is it that it is there that this initiative has been launched? My country, like many in Europe, is facing a national reaction to the new visibility of European Muslims. 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.

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 in Europe in general and in Switzerland in particular: while European countries and citizens are going through a real and deep identity crisis, the new visibility of Muslims is problematic – and it is scary.

At the very moment Europeans find themselves asking, in a globalising, migratory world, “What are our roots?”, “Who are we?”, “What will our future look like?”, they see around them new citizens, new skin colours, new symbols to which they are unaccustomed.

Over the last two decades Islam has become connected to so many controversial debates – violence, extremism, freedom of speech, gender discrimination, forced marriage, to name a few – it is difficult for ordinary citizens to embrace this new Muslim presence as a positive factor. There is a great deal of fear and a palpable mistrust. Who are they? What do they want? And the questions are charged with further suspicion as the idea of Islam being an expansionist religion is intoned. Do these people want to Islamise our country?

The campaign against the minarets was fuelled by just these anxieties and allegations. Voters were drawn to the cause by a manipulative appeal to popular fears and emotions. Posters featured a woman wearing a burka with the minarets drawn as weapons on a colonised Swiss flag. The claim was made that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Swiss values. (The UDC has in the past demanded my citizenship be revoked because I was defending Islamic values too openly.) Its media strategy was simple but effective. Provoke controversy wherever it can be inflamed. Spread a sense of victimhood among the Swiss people: we are under siege, the Muslims are silently colonising us and we are losing our very roots and culture. This strategy worked. The Swiss majority are sending a clear message to their Muslim fellow citizens: we do not trust you and the best Muslim for us is the Muslim we cannot see.

Who is to be blamed? I have been repeating for years to Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and proactive within their respective western societies. In Switzerland, over the past few months, Muslims have striven to remain hidden in order to avoid a clash. It would have been more useful to create new alliances with all these Swiss organisations and political parties that were clearly against the initiative. Swiss Muslims have their share of responsibility but one must add that the political parties, in Europe as in Switzerland have become cowed, and shy from any courageous policies towards religious and cultural pluralism. It is as if the populists set the tone and the rest follow. They fail to assert that Islam is by now a Swiss and a European religion and that Muslim citizens are largely “integrated”. That we face common challenges, such as unemployment, poverty and violence – challenges we must face together. We cannot blame the populists alone – it is a wider failure, a lack of courage, a terrible and narrow-minded lack of trust in their new Muslim citizens.

Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, is professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University. His most recent book is What I Believe

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