Monday, November 30, 2009

The Swiss Minaret Ban

Following up on an earlier post, you might have heard by now that Switzerland passed yesterday by a margin of 57.5% to 42.5% a law to ban the construction of minarets. Here is the NY Times write-up.

Update (December 1, 2009): See ReligionClause for information about reactions to the ban.

Update (December 2, 2009): See IslamOnline about the possibility of additional regulations on Muslim practices in Switzerland, including bans on hijab and burqas. Meanwhile, the U.N. calls the ban "clearly discriminatory."

8 comments:

  1. For a country that is predominately of Christian faith (82%), an infiltration of foreign religion, especially one that is so exposed to violence, is seen as a threat to the way of existence in Switzerland. French is spoken by roughly 20% of the people in Switzerland, and as seen by earlier posts, the French are not tolerant of many religions outside their own Catholicism. Now I do not condone this ban on the spread of a religion, for I know that my religion has been banned in many countries but eventually when the ban was lifted those people prospered and so did the surrounding demographic. This is true when the Swiss Jews were banned from establishing their settlements from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Eventually when the ban was lifted, many Jews poured into Switzerland and contributed to its economic success. I think that the Swiss People's Party believes that people of non white backgrounds, especially in religious terms are a threaty to the white European wellbeing. Modern day society has shown its true colors, even in the historically war neutral and welcoming country. It is not the Swiss citizens who are to blame, it is instead the current stigma that people carry against Muslims and linking them with terrorism. The word 'Islam' is translated into many subsets of the general term for peace, so it is not the religion that is violent, but only a few extremists that are responding violently to the corrupt governments and States that are trying to supress it through invasions, wars, and terror. That is of course a different topic meant for political debate. On this matter however, the Muslims that are coming to Switzerland in hopes of pursuing their religion are coming from Kosovo and Turkey, not the more violent nations of the Middle East. Considering the minute amounts of minarets in Switzerland, the addition of more will not harm the way of life of the Swiss people. Again, with Switzerland's long tradition of religious tolerance and the provision of refuge to the prosecuted, the ban comes as a shock. Switzerland, the center of neutrality and human rights advocacy will have to ask itself those questions of where its values lie. It would appear quite hypocritical for Switzerland to ban minarets, considering Switzerland's stand on the fight for international justice and tolerance of different peoples. I think the best way to fight terrorism is through education, not by a ban on the construction of minarets. This ban will not make the Islamic fundamentalists less likely to continue their pursuit of terror. The international community should also realize that it need not support Switzerlands ban on minaret construction.

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  2. If anything this will fuel more animosity within the muslim community. It is a shame a bill like this passed, had it been the contrary and a nation of another predominate faith banned the construction of say a steeple, the media outcry of lack of rights, religious freedom, and extremism would pour from western nations. But then again a nation predominantely Christian may not want Islamic architecture throughout their land, but to say it is to prevent extremism is laughable.

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  3. Thanks for the comments Alex and Cameron. I am a bit surprised by the ban, but I'm not shocked. And I agree that this ban will not do much to limit Islamic extremists; on the contrary, it just gives them another reason to dislike the West.

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  4. Kirk Arihara 26573377December 2, 2009 at 2:06 AM

    Christianity in Switzerland must be very strict compared to US and other countries because I'm sure many Christian faiths wouldn't prevent the practice of other religions. Like stated by the other student, this will indeed create high tension between religions. With these restrictions one faith is advantageous over another which can constitute an economic problem. I predict however that this ban can benefit the Muslim community; imposing restictions will lead to higher level of strictness and religiosity and will thus lead to higher religious goods and capital. However I feel that it is a huge violation of human rights and I dont know why the Swiss government would allow a restriction that can be dangerous to peace. Im not familiar with the Muslim faith but I feel a different resolution should be implemented.

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  5. Hearing this news I was also surprised but it was not a shock . Switzerland has always been a very tolerant, neutral nation with a strong history of support for human rights worldwide. So for a vote to come from this nation to ban new minaret construction was a strong sign of the times. This vote came from the people and it is obvious they feel threatened by the muslim population in the country. With terrorist activity as a daily headline I can understand how they would justify the vote. Though I do not think this action is correct, I do strongly belive that muslims need to examine why a nation like Switzerland would do this, surely they cannot be blamed alone for reacting as they have. However, I do agree that this will effectively do nothing to curb extreminism and certainly give another reason for extremists to hate the Western countries. Can we expect similiar rulings in other European countries? I think it is a growing possiblity.

    - donna yen

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  6. It makes sense that a Christian dominated country like Switzerland passed a law that would not allow the construction of Islamic mosque. The overall percentage, which almost came down to a 50-50 split in my opinion is cutting it close, but that is due to the religious tolerance there. I for one would have voted to allow it, but the fact that it did not pass would ultimately add some fuel to the fire because they said it was to prevent extremism. The notion to use that as a scapegoat builds jealousy and anger towards the situation.

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  7. Kirk, I wouldn't say that Christianity is very strict in Switzerland. There is a well-established Church of Sweden to which most Swedes belong.

    Donna, Your comments seem to imply that the Muslims have done something to merit the ban. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

    Jessie, I agree that this law is going to add to tensions while not doing much else.

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  8. I wouldnt necessarily say that Muslims have done anything wrong to merit the ban. However the fact that this vote has even occurred, let alone passed shows the fear of Muslim fundamentalism among the Swiss people. I view this as a Reaction to acts of Muslim extreminism that unfortunately have given a negative perception to the Islamic faith. Not that Muslims have done anything wrong, but obviously the Swiss people feel justified in their fear to merit this ban.

    - donna yen

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