Thursday, December 3, 2009

Switzerland Bans Mosque Minarets

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An anti-minaret poster used by the rightwing People's Party
to influence votes for banning further construction of minarets
on mosques in Switzerland. This poster says: "Stop! Yes for the
ban on minarets."
The poster depicts a Muslim woman in burqa
and behind her there is the Swiss flag through which
minarets are in growth mode. It means, more minarets will
spread the radical Islam which will take away freedom of
women and cause more problems in Switzerland

Poster courtesy: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Voters in Switzerland, in a country-wide referendum on November 29, approved a proposal to ban the construction of further minarets on Muslim mosques. Out of some 2.67 voters, 57.5% voted for the ban, that will find its place in the Swiss constitution after an amendment.

The Swiss government, which had opposed the ban, said in a statement: "The Federal Council [government] respects this decision. Consequently, the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted," reports Aljazeera.net.

In Switzerland, out of a population of 7.5 million, about 310,000 are Muslims, who are immigrants mostly from former Yugoslavia and Turkey. Out of 200 mosques or Muslim prayer houses in Switzerland, until now only four have minarets.

The Rightwing and Nationalist Influence on the Referendum

The rightwing and nationalist political party, The Swiss People's Party (SVP), and Federal Democratic Union party forced this referendum by collecting 100,000 signatures from eligible voters within 18 months. Switzerland has the system of referendum on important issues if a significant number of people request for it. If the proposal passes by the majority people, it gets inserted in the country's constitution.

The rightwingers, in their pre-referendum propaganda, tried to show that more minarets would increase the radical Islamic influence in the country. To them, the minarets also represent the growth of foreign ideology and Islamic Shariah law that have no place in Swiss democracy. Ulrich Schlueer, co-president of the Initiative Committee to ban minarets, said: "Forced marriages and other things like cemeteries separating the pure and impure -- we don't have that in Switzerland, and we do not want to introduce it. Therefore, there's no room for minarets in Switzerland."

Swiss radical feminists also drummed up support for the ban by arguing that the tower-like minarets are "male power symbols" and reminders of Islam's oppression of women, reports atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com. Julia Werner, a local housewife in Langenthal, a small town near Bern where Muslims wanted to put up a minaret next to their prayer room, said: "If we give them a minaret, they'll have us all wearing burqas. Before you know it, we'll have sharia law and women being stoned to death in our streets. We won't be Swiss any more."

Daniel Zingg, of the Federal Democratic Union party and belonging to a Protestant Christian fundamentalist group, said: "Minarets don't mean integration. Minarets represent a refusal to integrate. The minaret is connected to Islam which does not include tolerance, religious freedom or any other freedom." He also said that "minaret is only the first step." Minarets are "symbols of Muslim victories over newly conquered lands" and "precursors to the introduction of Islamic Shariah law."

Many Catholic Christians, on the other hand, supported the Muslims in their plan for construction of minarets. The Swiss Catholic bishops in last September opposed the proposal of banning minarets. They said: "The minarets, like the bell towers of churches, are a sign of the public presence of a religion."

Giusep Nay, a Catholic and former president of the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, said: "The Muslim minority is being attacked. The initiators of this anti-minaret campaign says they want to set an example. Well, this is setting a very bad example of how to exclude a minority. This is an exclusion campaign hindering all kinds of ongoing integration efforts," reports euronews.net.

The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities was also against any ban on minarets. Dr. Herbert Winter, the president of this federation, said: "As Jews, we have our own experience. For centuries we were excluded: we were not allowed to construct synagogues [Jewish temples] or cupola roofs. We do not want that kind of exclusion repeated."

Thomas Wipf, the head of the Swiss Federation of Protestant Churches and the Union of Protestant Churches in Europe, said: "This campaign against minarets is dangerous because it assumes that different religions cannot live together, that they have to fight each other. But we have to approach each other. We have to learn how to talk to each other. This is the real challenge."

Reactions to the Referendum

Switzerland's Muslims said that the referendum fuelled anti-Islamic feeling in the country. They also said that the recent construction of Sikh temples and Serbian Orthodox churches is proof that Islam is being singled out for discrimination.

"The initiators have achieved something everyone wanted to prevent, and that is to influence and change the relations to Muslims and their social integration in a negative way," said Taner Hatipoglu, the president of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Zurich. "We are frightened, and if the atmosphere continues to be like this and if the anti-Islamic hate increases, then the Muslims indeed will not feel safe anymore. This of course, is very unpleasant," he said.

Amnesty International has warned that such a ban would violate Switzerland's commitment to religious freedom.

The Swiss Catholic Bishops protested the minaret ban. In a communique, published on November 29, said that the people's decision to prohibit construction of minarets in the country "represents an obstacle and a great challenge on the path of integration in dialogue and mutual respect," reports Zenit.org. The communique also affirmed that this ban implies "a manifest omission to show the people that the prohibition of minarets does not contribute to a healthy coexistence between religions and cultures but, on the contrary, it deteriorates it."

It also said: "The campaign, with its exaggerations and caricatures, demonstrated that religious peace does not happen on its own, but must be defended every day."

Monsignor Antonio Maria Veglio, A Vatican official with the Pontifical Council on Migrants, talking to the Italian news agency ANSA, said that he shared the position taken by the Swiss Catholic bishops, who called the vote a "hard blow to religious freedom and immigration."

Reasons for this Undemocratic Stance

It is sad that this undemocratic behaviour is coming out of a fiercely democratic country like Switzerland. It is a country where, the population being small, almost every one enthusiastically participates in one's democratic rights.

This proposal for banning minarets comes from deep fear among the Swiss people. Many of them fear that an increased Muslim influence will destabilize and cause division in their country.

  • They saw how a number of mosques in Europe were used by radical Islamist mullahs to denigrate Western culture and lifestyle and influenced certain immigrant Muslim youths for the cause of extremism and terrorism.
  • They saw how some of the 9/11 terrorists were Muslim immigrants in Germany. Some other Muslim terrorists from other countries had visited these people in Germany to plan and execute the New York twin tower bombings.
  • They also saw, how, in the name of Islam and restoring family's honour, several dozen Muslim teenage girls and adult women in different European countries have been bodily harmed or even killed by their own family members. The so-called "honour killing" is completely alien to the culture of Europe.
  • The present Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was once a member of Turkey's Islamist movement. In 1998, he had publicly read a poem that, among others, said: " The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...." This sort of talk will definitely not sound sweet to the ears of the Christians and other non-Muslims.
  • A few years ago, North African Muslim immigrants in France had caused riots and widespread arson. Millions of dollars worth of properties were destroyed in those riots.
  • Muslim youths, invoking Islam, participated in deadly terrorist activities in some Western countries, such as the USA, the United Kingdom, and Spain.
  • Western countries do not understand whey good Muslims, who are greater in number, keep silent in face of un-Islamic activities (terrorism, killing of the innocents, etc. in the name of Islam) of a small number of Muslims. This silence or non-opposition in such cases gives the impression that good Muslims also favour terrorism against Christians.
  • Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and few other Middle East countries still ban public depiction or display of Christian cross and construction of churches in their lands. In most of the European countries, Muslims are allowed to construct mosques. In Rome, just near the Vatican, where the Pope -- the leader of the Roman Catholics -- lives -- Muslims constructed the second largest mosque in the world. Pope Benedict XVI on a number of occasions emphasized upon the reciprocity on the part of the Muslim countries to allow building of places of worship to Christians in their countries as Muslims are allowed to build mosques in Western countries.
  • Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and some Middle East countries do not grant citizenship to non-Muslims, but Muslims of any country in the world can get citizenship in most of the Western countries.
Conclusion

We hope that from both sides of the aisle there will be increased efforts in accepting each other and respecting freedom of religion of every person. Peace cannot come from one-sided effort, but only from the give-and-take of both sides.






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