The Swiss ban on minarets is futile

Image: Alaexis via Wikimedia Creative Commons

Image: Alaexis via Wikimedia Creative Commons

57.5% of the Swiss people have voted to ban the construction of minarets, towers that adorn Muslim mosques. Consequently, Switzerland has been criticised by religious leaders from around the world.

The purpose of a minaret is to call devotees to prayer, something already banned in Switzerland. Minarets in Switzerland are therefore pretty towers which adorn mosques, much in the same way a steeple might adorn a Church. Why not then ban steeples too, and every other religious symbol in Switzerland? This direct targeting of the Muslim community in Switzerland seems unfair, intolerant and in fact entirely pointless.

The campaign was put forth by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), who have argued that the minaret is a “power symbol of political Islam.” Their propaganda campaign posters depicted a woman covered in a burkha with minarets in the background, shooting up like missiles ready to fire. The poster was banned in three Swiss cities and rebuked throughout Europe and by the UN. The government opposed the ban and the decision may now be overturned in court. However, this seemingly harmless opposition to a religious symbol points to a much deeper hatred and fear that has taken root all over Europe.

The Swiss people clearly believe that the four minarets which currently exist in Switzerland are enough. Building any more would apparently lead to the “islamification” of the country. The message coming from Switzerland, a country that has been a symbol for tolerance, liberalism and openness throughout modern history, is astounding. Although there has been outrage at the decision from religious leaders there has also been mounting support in other countries.

The fact that this decision has been taken in a “free” country, in opposition to the Geneva Convention, is shocking. The double standard of freedom and xenophobia that Switzerland is now advocating is disgusting: they should either ban all religious symbols or none at all. They are instead persecuting the 400,000 Swiss Muslims who are the only real victims of this ban.

Instead of taking a strong stand against Islamic fundamentalists, it demonstrates an irrational fear which is beginning to take over Europe. It speaks of bigoted intolerance and as headlines all over the world are pointing out, it may “prompt global repercussions”.

In countries which preach tolerance, as well as religious and personal freedom, this decision is entirely hypocritical and in the end, futile. Banning minarets is not going to stop “islamification”, as it is called, will merely anger, not only the extremists, but the innocent Muslim population. Banning architectural motifs is not a very useful way to fight terrorism.

9 comments

  1. I guess they voted smartly to avoid becoming a new Londonistan.

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  2. “I guess they voted smartly to avoid becoming a new Londonistan.”

    These western thugs are trying to destroy all Muslims countries and talking about Londonistan, Nice one !

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  3. Gosh. After reading muslimpoxbyebye’s comment I feel like someone just came into my room and slapped me.

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  4. lol, you always get extremist comments like muslimpoxbyebye’s on articles like this inevitably written almost entirely in block capitals, some losers just trawl through the internet looking for the article with the slightest relevance to spew laughable ignorant rubbish onto. As for the Swiss who voted in favour of this ban, they’ve disgraced their country internationally, but you could argue that that was already done when the openly bigoted SVP were voted in (one of their other posters depicted white sheep kicking a black sheep out of the country; pretty clear message and clear reason for any decent person to be apalled by this ‘party’).

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  5. I’m wondering why muslimpoxbyebye’s comment was deleted. Seriously, it’s not as if a long, angry, capitalised brainfart can actually cause offense, you should have just left it there for comedy value.

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  6. The ban on minarets makes a complete and utter mockery of basic precepts of religious liberty.

    If a Muslim state were to ban church steeples, with or without public support, it would be immediately condemned as being intolerant and fundamentalist. Saudi Arabia is repeatedly condemned as being a bastion of intolerance for disallowing churches, but as the French ban on headscarves in schools, Switzerland’s ban on minarets and the virulently anti immigrant ( read Muslim ) rhetoric in most European states makes abundantly clear, Europe is far from being an easy place for minorities and immigrants.

    Add this to the long and ignoble history of persecution of Jews and Gypies, one has reason to wonder if this is another nail in the coffin of European pluralism.

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  7. 18 Dec ’09 at 11:57 am

    A. Politician

    Why are people’s objections to this silly referendum mainly about religion and offending religion?

    Surely it’s far more worrying that the State is willing to completely ban a style of architecture that less than half the population aren’t too keen on. Why should the government tell people what shape of building they can erect on their own property?

    If i want to put up a minaret on my house it should be a matter for myself, my neighbours and the local planning committee.

    Personally I’m quite a fan of the minaret. So many mosques (at least in the UK) are run down buildings or converted warehouses that lack the grandeur of hindu temples and christian churches. The middle east has some beautiful mosques with minarets on, why not have a few more in Europe instead of run down converted offices or warehouses?

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  8. The democratic decision of Switzerland must be respected!
    Minarets are considered by many as a sign of dominance and repression of females.

    This article is extremely biased and left wing, then again it must for it to win the Guardian prize.

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  9. The ban is utterly ridiculous.

    Personally, I am by no means a fan of organised religion or whatever else a mosque may stand for.

    However, we must respect basic liberties that people are entitled to. If someone owns a piece of land and decides that they want to build a mosque with a minaret on it, then so be it. I don’t see what harm this will do to me or any of my fellow citizens.

    Any accusations that the ban is left wing are silly and misguided. It is a basic classic liberal belief that the state should NOT infringe on the basic liberties of it’s people. If you disagree with the Islamic faith then why not engage in active debate about it and form a stigma around it?

    Banning the minaret merely displays insecurities about your own views and will further ostracise Muslims in Europe. Any attempts to integrate them must be done not by force but rather by social pressure – this will just serve to reinforce the clash of civilisations sentiment that’s widespread amongst some Muslims.

    Finally, it’s quite laughable that Muslim states are often subject to negative press due to their own restrictions on religious freedom. In Saudi Arabia for example any form of practising Christianity is banned. What differentiates us from them is that we live in tolerant democracies. Banning minarets may seem something small, a minor infringement but it sets a dangerous precedent that many of us cannot envisage.

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