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.