Friday, December 4, 2009

Swiss Minaret Ban Widely Condemned

The news of a Swiss referendum banning minarets in Switzerland has shocked the world. This last Sunday, November 29, the Swiss electorate approved an amendment to the Swiss Constitution that banned construction of minarets, or prayer towers. The amendment was approved by 57.5% of voters. The logic of those who claimed no animus to Islam as a religion is that the minarets are a sort of political muscle flexing in a religion that does not separate between politics and personal life.

On the one hand, you have open terrorists and those who have openly declared their desire to replace parliamentary democracy with an Islamic state as they define it. On the other hand you have Muslims who define Islamic faith as being compatible with parliamentary democracy. In Switzerland, the majority of Muslims are from the Balkans and practice little of their faith.

There are indeed intolerant and hateful Muslims who are an organised force in Islam outside the Arab world. There are behaviors associated with Islam that are criminal in the west. Female genital mutilation, honour killings and polygamy should remain criminal. Unfortunately , European countries are less than resolute in dealing with these behaviors. But banning minarets takes a slap at all Muslims. It is like curing cancer by shooting the patient. It treats those who pose no threat in the same way as those who have a conscious agenda of anti western hatred.

There is an irony in how this political battle has played out. The number one target of fundamentalist Islam is Israel and Jews. Who is defending the Muslims when their prayer towers are banned? It is Jewish organisations that have been most outspoken. The Jerusalem Post notes as follows.

"However, Jewish organizations, realizing that a crackdown on Islam could have repercussions for Jews as well, have come to the defense of Muslim worshipers, arguing that the Swiss's move was unjustifiable.

Rabbi Pinchas Dunner, executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis, an Orthodox organization, said "a war on religious freedom cannot defeat Islamic extremists. The best weapon against radical Islam is support for moderate elements in the Muslim community and promoting interfaith dialogue."

In contrast, the Anti-Defamation League tied the move to religious discrimination against Jews.

"This is not the first time a Swiss popular vote has been used to promote religious intolerance," said the ADL in a press release. "A century ago, a Swiss referendum banned Jewish ritual slaughter, in an attempt to drive out its Jewish population."

It should be noted that kosher slaughter remains banned to this day in Switzerland. The TPM Live Wire web site reports as follows on substantial legislative hardships imposed upon Jews and Muslims in Switzerland and elsewhere.

"Even now, Jews and Muslims must import their kosher and halal meat from neighboring countries. In recent years, some groups have gone farther, trying to ban even its import. In 2003, for example, the Swiss Animal Protection group began a campaign to ban its import, but failed.

Six other European countries join Switzerland in banning the practice: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The European Union recognized such slaughter earlier this year and declared kosher and halal meat can be sold in every country, but did not go so far as to legalize the slaughtering practice throughout the EU."

Anyone who has studied the dhimmi laws enacted in Muslim countries is struck by the similarities between the minaret ban and sanctions levied on Jews and Christians to make sure that the architecture of their houses of worship was low key, self effacing and diminutive in relation to the relative size of mosques.

There are already zoning laws that regulate the height in general of buildings. Singling out one faith with regulations not incumbent upon others has an eerie historical resonance. There is a body of law in each and every European country that regulates conduct and political activity. Punishing thoughts and attacking religious symbols will not stop terrorism. Identifying, punishing and deporting those who are promoting and practicing terrorism should be the order of the day.

In 1492, Muslim Turkey was a place of refuge to Jews (and not long after, Muslims) who were fleeing forced conversions. Muslim Albania was a place of refuge and safety for Jews in World War Two.

Conversely, 60 years ago it was Christian Europe that was a cauldron of Jew hatred.

Each faith contains within it seeds of hatred that can be cultivated into a noxious growth. Hatred of the West and of Jews in particular is a big problem in the Muslim world. But there are Muslims fighting it, Muslims who have a vision of their faith that can coexist with democracy as we know it.

I am repulsed by the dhimmitude, the subordinate legal status endured by Christians in Arab countries. I can not be morally consistent in condemning this if I remain silent about Switzerland's ban on minarets. Itis a bad law that will create problems without solving any at all. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Virgil said...

Don't lump all Arab countries with the likes of Ssudi Arabia. Many have large historical Christian minorities that enjoy a normal life and normal rights. Any visitor to Damascus and Cairo will tell you that along with the many mosques, you will see great churches rising in the skyline.