Swiss vote to ban new minarets too close for comfort

By Jason Rhodes
November 27, 2009


(Photo: Poster to vote ”yes” to minaret ban in a Swiss meadow, 13 Nov 2009/Dario Bianchi)

A threatening image dominates Switzerland’s streets in the form of a dark woman dressed in a Muslim niqab veil, looming over a Swiss flag covered with missile-like minarets with a call to vote “yes” in a referendum on Sunday to ban minarets on mosques here. The posters clearly seek to tap into the concerns of the country’s traditionally Christian majority about increased immigration from Muslim countries.

“I find the nature of these posters very provocative against the Islamic world. The presentation and the way the minarets are presented like rockets is unbelievable. Also the colours — with all the black — look very threatening,” says 34-year-old air traffic controller Judith Baumer.  “I assume that it’s supposed to trigger strong emotions or fear in the population.”

minarets-trainThe poster, described by the Swiss race commission as demonising Muslims and provoking religious tensions, has been banned in some cities but seems omnipresent in others.

(Photo: Vote “yes” posters in Zurich’s main train station, 26 Oct 2009/Arnd Wiegmann)

Polls suggest the referendum could be close-run. With only a slim majority of Swiss questioned expressing opposition or a tendency to oppose a ban, turnout and currently undecided voters could yet sway the vote towards behind the “‘yes” campaign.

“It’s fine to build minarets in a Muslim country, not in Switzerland. I’m strictly against that,” says unemployed electrical fitter Rolf Waechtler.  “People from abroad are ok with me, but I’m in favour of them putting minarets directly there: abroad.”

The anti-minarets initiative was organised mainly by members the right-wing Federal Democratic Union (EDU) and Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which won the largest share of the vote at the last election on rising anti-foreigner sentiment in Switzerland spurred by increased immigration.

minarets-polyglotUnder Swiss law citizens have the right to force referendums on any issue provided they collect enough signatures in support of their initiative.  But the Swiss government and other parties — including the Conservative Democratic Party (BDP), which broke away from the SVP in 2008 — oppose a ban, warning it would violate the country’s constitution and stir religious tension.

(Photo: “Yes” posters in German, French and Italian at SVP meeting in Geneva, 3 Oct 2009/Valentin Flauraud)

The Swiss vote is just the latest example of mistrust between Muslim and Christian communities that has created tensions and fuelled support for far-right groups in other European countries as well.

It is all the more surprising because Switzerland’s Muslims, who make up around 4 percent of the 7.6 million-strong population and are mainly of European origin, are a low-profile minority. There are also just four minarets in the entire country.

Three attacks on one of these few mosques with minarets, in Geneva, this month could indicate the ban is already having an effect on race relations in the country.

minarets-vote-no1The initiative has been slammed at home and abroad and a ban would damage Switzerland’s reputation as a neutral country that upholds freedoms of worship, speech and expression. It could lead to the radicalisation of some members of a Muslim community generally regarded as well integrated into Swiss society.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee and Amnesty International say a ban would contravene Switzerland’s international obligations to uphold human rights.

(Photo: Poster to vote “no” to the minaret ban by Geneva interfaith group, 21 Nov 2009/Denis Balibouse)

And the Swiss think tank economiesuisse warns it would damage business at a time when the country’s private banks, hit hard by the relaxation of Swiss bank secrecy, are stepping up attempts to attract more business from Muslim clients around the world with new Islamic banking products.

On Sunday, the world will see whether Switzerland’s voters use their model of direct democracy to defend the country’s long-cherished values of tolerance and freedom or instead choose to isolate their country’s biggest religious minority.

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Quote:Senior Turkish military officers had made extensive plans to terrorize non-Muslims in Turkey. In the large Ergenekon1 scandal recently a well-planned terrorist operation was revealed. The operation which is called “Kafes Operasyonu Eylem Plani”, in English meaning “the execution of the cage – operation” was to eliminate the remaining small group of Christians living in Turkey today.The plan was revealed when police arrested Levent Bektas, a major in the Turkish army. The evidence seized reveals more than 27 officers and senior military officers involved in the conspiracy against Christians.In order to identify key persons among the Christians and then kill them, this terrorist network has broken into a Greek church congregation compound and stolen computers. The purpose of this was to access the congregation’s member lists.”When our office was emptied of computers and files, church members were very concerned. Since the murder of the monk Santoro, the journalist Hrant Dink and the brutal murder of three publishing workers in Malatya, Christians are living in constant fear,” said lawyer Kezban Hatemi, representing the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul.On November 28, 2007, the Syriac Orthodox monk Daniel Savci in Turabdin was kidnapped in southeastern Turkey. The monk resides in the St. Gabriel monastery, which Turkish authorities are trying to confiscate. A few days later the monk was found beaten. Shortly after, the police arrested some village guards, a state-sanctioned militia subordinate to the Turkish army, for the kidnapping. Many people with insight into the situation interpret the kidnapping as a direct threat to the remaining Assyrians in Turabdin.Christians were attacked across the country. To implement the strategic attacks, the country”s Christian population was mapped out and 939 key persons from different parts of the country were identified as potential targets.The fully detailed operation consists of four phases: preparation, spreading propaganda, shape opinion and execute.The newspaper Taraf, which has been able to access the information, has published several articles about this. On its website it is described in detail how the plan to attack the Christians was to be implemented.Below are some points that constitute the plan”s main lines.* Christians are mapped* Famous and wealthy Christian businessmen kidnapped* Systematic fires and looting of Christian businesses* The Armenian newspaper AGOS be subjected to several explosions* Murder patrols executing attacks against selected individuals* Christian cemeteries subjected to explosions* Churches and institutions belonging to Christians subjected to explosions* Put the blame on imaginary militant organizationsSYMPATHY FOR ALL RELIGIONS WHO ARE YOU FOOLING???__________________

Posted by mona phifer | Report as abusive

Are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and other religions allowed to build churches,Synagogues, and Temples in the Arab World?Are Christians, Jews, and all others allowed to practice their chosen beliefs openly in the Arab World?The answers to both questions are NO!!!!!!!With rare exceptions, Muslims do not integrate into their country of choice when emigrating. Rather, they seek to set up mini closed societies from which sooner or later extremism arises in one way or another.Every time a country tries to maintain their own traditional and national heritage, these individuals rise up and scream DISCRIMINATION!!!Once the far left gets involved, all must make excuses to to defend their morals and ethics against a people who do not seem to have many – (public whippings, honor killings, amputations including beheading).Why do we always have to end up on our knees begging forgiveness from a culture we have graciously allowed into our western way of life?This situation is very reminiscent of how Europe kept trying to appease Adolf Hitler until he ended up starting a World War.To all Muslims – Let me build a church in the Middle East and practice my faith openly without fear of retaliation. Give me the respect as human being that you are demanding of me.If you are not willing to do even these simple things, then I suggest you take your religion and culture back to wherever it is you came from

Posted by DAG | Report as abusive

to matt.Obviously you know notthing about these people or ,you are a muslim ,have a muslim in your family ,are an immigrant ,or have muslim freinds.this is an answer I gave to lilly,s comments in another newspaper, read on ,,one who is in the dark.To LillyYou know nothing of these people. We are at war with this faith.In 2004 I started worked for a company (and have done so for the past 5 years ) who supplied the Home Office with housing for immigrants and asylum seekers..From picking them up from so called short stay small winnable hotels who supplied them with a bedroom ,dining room and main lounge to taxiing them to the house or flat they had been given by my company who claimed the rent and all the attached charges to that house. Back from the HO.Most of these people had a grasp of English and 95 % thought I was a british muslim and spoke reasonable english when speaking to me.Not so when talking to English immigration officials.Note I say English as I am English and I speak English.They would ask for an enterptreter and would not answer any question put to them in English90% of these houses were owned by muslims who rented them out to my company who rented them out to the HO.The houses would be deep cleaned and i woulld sign them off as ready for the immigrant/asylum or goup of men or women..In the 5 years up to the present day looking at my completion sheets i have signed off 1366 houses for ocupation by these people.Are you still there LILY?Looking at my completion sheets for the tick for each house kept clean up to 2 weeks after habitation I find 6 out of 1366.Most were pig styes within 0ne week, denoted on my sheets by a pigs head ,,,with toilets backing up, washing machine broke,.c/h boilers broke ., back yards and gardens full of rubbish just thrown attracting rats and a large number had cockroaches brought in the belongings of these people and sometimes I found them in my people carrier.I was fortunate to be called into the office for about a month as one of the assistants was on maternity leave with her seventh child .(, no prizes for guessing what faith.)In that month I saw and photographed what my company is charging for each asylum seeker/immigrant each week to the English man in the street. ..£620 a week what do you think of that Lilly.Still with me Lily.The only time I saw many these people clean was on a Friday when they went to the mosque..Lilly,Have you worked with these people.Have you eaten 1000,s of meals with them.Have you slept in the same room as them on and off for five years.Have you discussed their faith many hundreds of time with different male and female muslins.Have you ever followed them into a toilet and found footmarks on the toilet seat where they have stood to do what they have to do..This faith is beneath what you and I know.Still with me lily.Have you seen young Muslim gangs baying around 12 an 13 year old white girls and after using them pass them around like cigarettes.Do you know hundreds of 30 – 40 year old Muslim men living with underage white girls indoctrinating them into the Islamicfaith.Have you driven hundreds of black/afghan/iranian/somalians /iraqisto the unemployment exchanges to sign on and go for interviews regarding finding work then drive them back to their taxi firms where they carry on working in their taxis.Have you been present wham a Muslim as claimed for 4-6 different wives at 4-6 different addresses.They tell me in private their faith enforces the treatment of gentiles and Jews as filth.How does that sit with you Lilly? oh and now MattObviously you don’t get out much and do not know what this religion is capable of but—- it seems the Swiss do?nuce people and they can all be Matts freind,s I certainly don,t want them anywhere near me.

Posted by piers brown | Report as abusive

Piers Brown…I’m not sure you understood me. I said that I voted for the ban i.e. I support the ban on minarets.Also, I grew up with Muslims, went to school with them, my childhood best friend was one…I believe she still is but then again we haven’t spoken for years now. I know all about their culture, their holidays, their koran…all of it. While growing up, I remember how on certain days I couldn’t play with my best friend because she had to stop and go and pray five times a day…and that was just one “chore” that she had to do.I have seen the religion of Islam and endured discussions about being a Christian “infidel” with regular people, some of whom at one time were actual close family friends. I’ve seen the “peaceful” nature of Mohammed’s people and I can say that their peace is white hot…the only time it doesn’t scald you is when it’s on their terms and unless Islam gets its way, there are Jihads and Fatwas to go about demonstrating just how peaceable Islam is…if you don’t believe me just ask Israel.While not all Muslims are terrorists, we can’t ignore the fact that many terrorists happen to be devout Muslims and they are the very ones who are recruited in religious institutions after enduring years of predictive programming and mind control beginning from their Madrassa days.I have no problem if someone wishes to practice a religion, whether free or oppressive…that’s their choice and for all their whining, they’re still free to do that here in Switzerland. I do however have a problem with the Islamo-political nature of minarets and those do not belong here. There are enough Imams controlling their flock from overseas with regards to political matters and we don’t need to start giving them megaphones to better help them wake up potential sleepers.We are a traditionally Christian and to an extent pagan nation and we like it that way. Mosques ok, minarets no!This chipping away at our national sovereignty from within using religion and human rights as an excuse has to stop or we’ll find ourselves in the same dire straits as the US is now in.

Posted by Lily | Report as abusive

Wow, I hadn’t realized how horrifying the posters were until I saw them in the photos above. Chilling, how intolerance and xenophobia can still exist. Here are the appalled reactions in the media:

Posted by johnfranklin | Report as abusive

The decision to ban minarets is unfair, against all human rights and will only create hatred and prejudice against swiss….Islam calls for peace and respect to other religions. I live in a muslim Country, where there are jewish temples, churches and mosques all within close distance, all practicing their religious practices in perfect peace and harmony… that’s Islam…Don’t mix between Islam and terrorism, as Islam condemns terrorism and calls for peace. banning minarets will only open the door for hatred, prejudice… what would be your reaction if muslims decide to ban churches? would be that acceptable? and would Switzerland blame them if they do that? Human rights are human rights, in all countries and for all religions.

Posted by zizi | Report as abusive

Banning Minarets – The real question is what does this proof or mean? It proves that there will always be a ruling party. It proves that there will always be a dominion on earth who loves to rule. It proves that sensualising discomfort & uneasiness will serve the pleasures to the majority. Even though we claim to be democratically correct we are so ridiculed with flaw because we do not practise democracy to its fullest quality only by mere capacity. Despite the world changing it’s very clear that nothing has changed. We prefer to be set & stuck in our old ways. This was the beginning & the rise of Apartheid in South Africa. Yet we love to ostracize and find fault with the ones we love. Be it greed, control or not wanting to be different. ‘As long as it’s not me…it’s ok to eradicate & eliminate a people that behave a little different.’ In fact I’m not here to proof the benefits of Islam. Accept it or leave be…the qualities my grandmother taught me was:”1. To have good etiquette; 2. To be with the ones who have good etiquette; 3. To not hurt others.” Does that make me different…I ask how. We know how to conduct ourselves in business (good etiquette) now how different must one be to be a good practising person. You either ‘innit’ or you out. I know who I am…do you?

Posted by Langa | Report as abusive

if the answer was to go with mosque project and was approved by the current regim or official in the white house then those people hiding behind the walls in the white house should resign, of shame of their wrong doing to this country.

Posted by peterpaul | Report as abusive