In theory Switzerland is a secular state, whose constitution guarantees freedom of religious expression to all. In practice however mosques in Switzerland tend to be confined to disused warehouses and factories.
Across the country, there are only two small minarets, one in Zurich and one in Geneva, neither of which are permitted to make the call to prayer. In Switzerland's capital Berne, the largest mosque is in a former underground car park. (via BBC NEWS | Europe | Swiss move to ban minarets).
The European mind
The entire Swiss-minarets issue is revealing. The media coverage is a peep-hole into European subconscious fears about the loss of civility. Beneath the Euro-gloss, lies recent and murky history - of persecution, slaughter, bigotry, slavery, genocide, war, intolerance et al.
Pulled apart by an instinctive tendency towards imposition of standards, uniformity (aka 'assimilation' and 'integration') and a conscious, felt need to broaden the mental canvas and the borders of the European sub-conscious.
Referendum and after
Anyway, even without the referendum,
no minarets are being built anywhere in Switzerland; the controversy has created a situation in which no local planning officer wants to be the first to approve one.
In the small town of Langenthal, just outside Berne, plans to build a very modest minaret have been put on ice following thousands of objections.
The New York Times adds some details about
The referendum, which passed with a clear majority of 57.5 percent of the voters and in 22 of Switzerland's 26 cantons, was a victory for the right. The vote against was 42.5 percent. Because the ban gained a majority of votes and passed in a majority of the cantons, it will be added to the Constitution.
Of 150 mosques or prayer rooms in Switzerland, only 4 have minarets, and only 2 more minarets are planned. None conduct the call to prayer. There are about 400,000 Muslims in a population of some 7.5 million people. Close to 90 percent of Muslims in Switzerland are from Kosovo and Turkey, and most do not adhere to the codes of dress and conduct associated with conservative Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, said Manon Schick, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International in Switzerland.
France ... has been talking about banning the full Islamic veil as a way to stop the influence of the more fundamentalist Salafist forms of Islam ...
Pretending, as though the Swiss Government had a choice, the New York Times report continued,
The Swiss government said it would respect the vote and ... reassure(d) the Muslim population ... that the minaret ban was "not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture."
In classic double speak, Swiss authorities reacted
"We don't have anything against Muslims," said Oskar Freysinger, member of parliament for the Swiss People's Party.
"But we don't want minarets. The minaret is a symbol of a political and aggressive Islam, it's a symbol of Islamic law. The minute you have minarets in Europe it means Islam will have taken over."
Will a few minarets mean Islamic takeover of Switzerland? Is Catholic-Swiss-European culture in such dire straits that a few minarets will annihilate it?
Nervous Euro-liberals, renewed their liberal credentials by speaking out against this 'development'. The Telegraph of the UK quoted
Wolfgang Bosbach a senior CDU MP said that criticising the Swiss ban would be counterproductive. It reflected a fear of growing Islamisation "and this fear must be taken seriously," he said.
The LA Times went further and pointed that
Belgian newspaper Le Soir noted that some people found minarets "scary," and added, "There is a strong chance that if there was a vote in Belgium, a majority of citizens would be against it too."
The Islamic reaction is equally interesting. From Egypt to Indonesia, Muslim eaders and clerics were quick to pounce on this development - and issue soundbites. The Times of London quotes a Indonesian Muslim leader,
"This is the hatred of Swiss people against Muslim communities. They do not want to see a Muslim presence in their country and this intense dislike has made them intolerant," said Maskuri Abdillah, the head of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's biggest Muslim group.
Egypt's Mufti Ali Gomaa denounced the ban on new minarets as an insult to all Muslims. "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."
Dear Shri Abdillah, while you have been swift to condemn the Swiss, have you ever questioned why Saudi Arabia has no Hindu or Buddhist temples? Clearly, the Desert Bloc needs to understand that the 'tolerance' cannot be selective or a one way street.