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Nov. 30 2009 - 11:54 pm | 67 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Hey Switzerland: We Don’t Need Your Minarets

First of all: Yes, it was indeed a slap in the face to Swiss (and European) Muslims that a recent ‘popular referendum’ vote backed primarily by right-wing nationalist parties was approved by 57.5 percent of the population Sunday; forcing the government to “declare illegal the building of any new [mosque] minarets” in Switzerland.

According to reports, the ‘referendum’ does “not affect the country’s four existing minarets”.

So much for being a ‘neutral’ country, Switzerland…Well done…

Secondly; let us also remember that the sociopolitical concept of a ‘popular referendum’ is where you allow the general population to vote on what becomes enacted as law, even though they may have no idea (or little regard) for what could very possibly be the infringing of basic human or constitutional rights.

For example; had ’slavery’ or ‘inter-racial marriage’ been put to the ‘popular referendum’ vote here in the United States, you can bet your sweet little Swiss watch that we could very well have seen blacks being regarded as 3/5ths of a human being and slavery go well into the 20th century here in America.

Either way, this is where the concept of ‘human rights’ comes into play in this latest Swiss Minaret merry-go-round.

The Council of Europe immediately said that banning “new minarets in Switzerland raises concerns as to whether fundamental rights of individuals, protected by international treaties, should be subject to popular votes.”

Anti-Minaret Political Poster in Switzerland

Anti-Minaret Political Poster in Switzerland

Furthermore, the statement by the 47-nation council’s secretary-general, Thorbjorn Jagland, suggests “a case may be made to seek a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights condemning Switzerland for violating freedom of expression, freedom of religion and prohibition of discrimination” in this latest vote by Swiss citizens.

Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf noted that the minaret ban would come into force immediately, but also indicated that the higher European court could strike down the Sunday vote, which incurred swift condemnation at home and abroad for banning the towers used to put out the Islamic call to prayer.

For example, French Foreign Minister Mr. Bernard Kouchner said he was “a bit scandalized” by the vote, which amounts to “oppressing a religion.”

“I hope that the Swiss will go back on this decision rather quickly,” Mr. Kouchner said on France’s RTL radio.

“It is an expression of intolerance, and I detest intolerance.”

The most recent Swiss Minaret issue seems to be the work of right-wing xenophobic anti-immigrant political parties within Switzerland. Although the Swiss government was officially ‘against’ this proposed referendum,  many observers note that this referendum was the work of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) political group.

Furthermore, it is equally noteworthy that the voting results of this minaret referendum have been welcomed by leaders of other radical right-wing groups within Europe; such as Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the radical-right Austrian Freedom Party, and Marine Le Pen, vice-president of France’s National Front (and daughter of France’s far-right jingoiste extraordinaire, the infamous Jean-Marie Le Pen).

Supporters of the minaret ban said the number of Muslims in Switzerland had grown sharply from 50,000 in 1980, but it is still only 4 percent of the 7.5 million Swiss population, many of whom are not even active or practicing Muslims.

According to reports, Western Europe has an estimated 14 million Muslims proudly calling Europe their home today.

As a silver lining, the Vatican and the greater Roman Catholic Church, however, condemned the Swiss vote.

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

Overnight, opponents of the minaret ban lit candles in front of the Swiss parliament in Bern and hung up banners saying “This is not my Switzerland.”

Thanks for the sentiment, Switzerland.

Either way, European Muslims do not need your minarets in order to continue being proud members of the European Union.

Although a direct political slap in the face to its Swiss Muslim citizens, European Muslims should politically turn the other cheek and continue to peacefully pray in their mosques (sans minarets), continue to give money to the poor, help their local civic communities, serve on city council’s and proudly embrace their citizenship and identity as proud Europeans.

Even if Europe does not embrace them back.

So, if the genteel and ‘neutral’ Swiss people voted this silly anti-Muslim referendum based on the political platforms of the aforementioned right-wing xenophobic political parties, it simply reminds me of this famous European proverb:

“With friends like these…Who needs enemies?”


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  1. collapse expand

    I cannot believe that a human rights lawyer can write such drivel that “Although a direct political slap in the face to its Swiss Muslim citizens, European Muslims should politically turn the other cheek”.

    Muslims have every right to protest peacefully through the politically process against what constitutes as an assault on their freedom to practice their religion. A Swiss ban on minarets opposes upholding the religious freedom of its citizens. It violates and discriminates the right of Muslims to practice their religion. If minarets are banned then should Church spires also be banned? If spires are allowed, then does this not constitute as religious discrimination?

    If mosques are allowed, how does a minaret on a mosque constitute a political symbol? How is it that the existing four minarets do not pose a threat to Switzerland and causing political anarchy?

    Also just because a small percentage of Muslims are “practicing” do minorities not have the same human rights?

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    About Me

    Arsalan is an international human rights lawyer and founder of TheMuslimGuy.com

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