Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Danish cartoons’

The Swiss Are So Wrong about Minarets

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 30th November, 2009

The building of minarets has been banned by law in Switzerland, following a 57-43 per cent vote by the public in a referendum on whether they should be forbidden. The far-right ‘Yes’ campaigners — who plastered billboards with provocative images of minarets ranged up like nuclear missiles and a woman in a niqab (an extremely rare form of ultra-modest dress among the predominantly Balkan Muslims who live in Switzerland) — used the familiar lies of their ilk, about how minarets on mosques are political, not religious, symbols and that they would inevitably lead to shariah or Islamic law being thrust on the Swiss as part of the Islamisation of Europe. All this would be laughable, if it were not so serious. There are at present precisely four minarets in the whole of the country. Muslims make up just five per cent of the Swiss population and most of them are well integrated. But they have now been unjustly portrayed as threatening aliens and their religion branded as dangerous. Similar foul things are being spouted in some other European countries, including the Netherlands and Denmark. Don’t people remember what happened when the Star of David was so maligned in the 1930s?

From the racists’ and Islamophobes’ point of view, it was of course o.k. for Europeans to build not hundreds but thousands of churches with steeples all over Asia and Africa — including in majority Muslim countries such as Kuwait and Iran — but this cannot be reciprocal, apparently. Are steeples not a danger to the Muslims of the rest of the world, then? Like most fascist and racist arguments, this one does not stand up to scrutiny. But the likely consequences are all too predictable. Muslims in Switzerland will feel in danger and there is bound to be an angry reaction in various parts of the Islamic world. Churches in countries such as Indonesia (already the target of Islamic zealots on some islands) are put at risk and Switzerland can expect to be subjected to various economic boycotts, as Denmark was after the disgraceful publication in a Danish newspaper of crude caricatures of the Propher Muhammad. Doubtless the perpetrators of the Swiss referendum will claim that they were defending Switzerland and European values, but in reality, they are likely to have achieved just the opposite.

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