Sunday, November 29, 2009

Swiss Set To Ban New Construction of Minarets

The European concept of religious freedom is different than the American vision, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that some Europeans are pushing for a ban on the construction of new minarets. The surprise is that this push is getting its support in Switzerland. Swiss voters are set to ban the construction of new minarets. Switzerland currently has four minarets, and while minarets are used by Muslims to broadcast their calls to prayer elsewhere in the world, the Swiss have banned the practice.
If confirmed, the result would be a huge embarrassment for the neutral Swiss government, which had warned that amending the constitution to ban construction of minarets could serve could "serve the interests of extremist circles."

"The initiative would appear to be accepted, there is a positive trend. It's a huge surprise," French-language Swiss television said, 30 minutes after polls closed at midday.

A majority of voters as well as cantons appeared to have approved the initiative, it said, citing exit polls carried out by the Berne-based Institute Gfs.

Both the Swiss government and parliament had rejected the initiative as violating the Swiss constitution, freedom of religion and the nation's cherished tradition of tolerance. The United Nations human rights watchdog had also voiced concerns.

A group of politicians from the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), the country's biggest party, and Federal Democratic Union gathered enough signatures to force the vote on the initiative which opposes the "Islamisation of Switzerland."

Its campaign poster showed the Swiss flag covered in missile-like minarets and the portrait of a woman covered with a black chador and veil associated with strict Islam.

"We just want to stop further Islamisation in Switzerland, I mean political Islam. People may practice their religion, that is no problem," Walter Wobmann, who is president of a committee of initiative backers, told Reuters on Sunday.

"We want to stop the further developments -- minarets, (the call to prayer), Sharia law," SVP parliamentarian said at a rally of supporters in the town of Egerkingen near Berne.
Islamophobia is playing a very strong role in this as xenophobia. So does fear of political Islam and the expanding role of Sharia in Swiss life.

It isn't a far leap in the minds of these proponents from Islamic symbolism to terrorism.

The Swiss ban also once again highlights Europe's difficulties in assimilating outsiders into their polity, as well as the insistence by some to retain their cultural, religious, and political identities as separate and distinct. It also brings into focus the intent by some Muslims to impose their views on others; that's why we've seen a focus on the headscarf in France, mosque construction in Germany, and demands for religious courts imposing sharia as separate and distinct from the civil administrative laws of various countries.

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