I never knew when I wrote my original post on this subject on September 18th, that when the vote took place two months later, it would generate so many new visits here.
According to traffic on this blog on the days leading up to and after the Swiss voted on the weekend to prohibit Muslim mosques from constructing minarets (the spire shaped towers) that are used to call the faithful to prayer, this is an issue for which there is intense interest, most probably because it has a bearing on religious freedom not only in Switzerland, but also where you live, and around the world.
To see a short 2-minute report on the issue as it made news in Canada, you can watch this one at CBC News. Although the post is quite sweeping in its coverage of the vote, the title — not fully explored — is intriguing, “Could a Minaret Ban Happen Here: An Examination of What Might Happen if Canadian Tolerance Weakens.” Did Swiss tolerance weaken? Or was it never truly there in the first place?
Here’s a commentary at Beliefnet that also summarizes what happened if you’re coming to this for the first time:
All Muslims are Taliban, Islamophobia is the new anti-Semitism, and Shari’a is the new Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That’s the operational reality that Muslims in Europe must acknowledge, in the wake of a referendum to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland:
In a vote that displayed a widespread anxiety about Islam and undermined the country’s reputation for religious tolerance, the Swiss on Sunday overwhelmingly imposed a national ban on the construction of minarets, the prayer towers of mosques, in a referendum drawn up by the far right and opposed by the government.
The referendum, which passed with a clear majority of 57.5 percent of the voters and in 22 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, was a victory for the right. The vote against was 42.5 percent. Because the ban gained a majority of votes and passed in a majority of the cantons, it will be added to the Constitution.
The Swiss Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the rightist Swiss People’s Party, or S.V.P., and a small religious party had proposed inserting a single sentence banning the construction of minarets, leading to the referendum.
Civil Libertarians were quick to decry the results. Even The Vatican condemned the loss of freedom of religion. One political writer and talk-radio host suggested that the vote will have both a cause and effect influence on Switzerland’s future immigration dynamics. Another writer suggests that the vote now introduces a whole new set of problems.
As you can see, there is no end of coverage on this over the last few hours. So I contacted our anonymous correspondent in Switzerland from the September blog post for a grassroots reaction, which gets the last word:
The media here has gone crazy of course, saying it shows that the Swiss are afraid of Muslims, that the vote was decided by fear. I personally don’t think that’s true. It’s not like the Swiss are going to tear down the minarets that are already built, mosques have not been forbidden and the Muslims are not being expelled from the country. They have the right to meet, to practice their religion and to have their mosques. It’s been said in the media that a lot of them meet in old warehouses or industrial buildings, but so do most evangelical Christians. (The only Protestant churches here are state owned and run.) And it’s not like Christians are allowed to go into a Muslim country to build a cathedral. I feel like that’s more the point. It’s not a vote of fear, but of fairness. If people want to move to another country and integrate into that country, there needs to be a bit of give and take. Like I said before, they are still allowed to practice Islam, still allowed to build mosques. Religion is not a building. A church is more than four walls and a spire with a cross on the top. It’s not a vote banning Islam, it’s a vote banning towers.
The other interesting thing is that, in our canton (province) only 52% of eligible voters actually voted. It would be interesting to know what everyone else thinks…
And in the wake of all this, people are not talking about the fact that the Swiss also voted to keep exporting arms to other countries. Why is everyone so concerned that we can’t build a tower, and not concerned about people killing each other with Swiss army material? Sometimes I wonder about the media’s priorities…