Bishop of Arabia dismayed by minaret ban in Swiss homeland

December 3, 2009

minarets-trainMany supporters of the Swiss ban on minarets justified it with the argument that limitations on mosques in Europe were permissible because Christians can’t build churches in some Muslim countries. This was also a recurring theme in comments to FaithWorld (see here and here). But doesn’t this tit-for-tat approach simply provide further arguments for Muslim authorities who don’ t want to concede more religious freedom to their Christian minorities?

(Photo: Posters for “yes” vote to minaret ban in Zurich train station, 26 Oct 2009/Arnd Wiegmann)

One man uniquely placed to judge this is the Swiss-born Roman Catholic Bishop Paul Hinder. Based in Abu Dhabi, he is at the frontline of the “reciprocity” debate on treatment of Christian minorities in the Middle East. In an interview in today’s French Catholic daily La Croix, Hinder says he was “dismayed” that the minaret ban passed in a referendum last Sunday. “For us Christians in Arabia, it will certainly not make our work easier, although some might think they have done us a favour by saying yes to this initiative,” he said.

“Nobody can deny that the ban on minarets punishes a specific religious community, whose members in Switzerland have done nothing wrong,” he added. “I certainly understand the irrational fears of many Swiss faced with the heightened visibility of religion that they previously knew only by hearsay but now find right at their doorsteps or in the apartment next door.”

hinderSwiss who supported the ban seem to think that Muslims can live in Switzerland as long as they keep out of sight, Hinder said. “If that’s so,” he remarked, “then a mosque should look like a Swiss chalet and the call to prayer, if any, must be done from the balcony with an Alpine horn!” In his opinion, a minaret was no less foreign to the Swiss landscape than the golden arches of McDonald’s “which seems to have almost a force of religious attraction for many people.”

“Hopefully this result, which is surprising for me, will at least lead to a more thorough debate on the question of how far religion has the right or even duty to be visible in society, “ he said, adding that the referendum result will certainly not go down in the history books as “a glorious page for direct democracy.”

What do you think? Should western countries respond to restrictions on Christian minorities in Muslim countries by putting limits on Muslims in the west?

(Photo: Bishop Hinder in Rome, 11 Nov 2008/Alessandro Bianchi)

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1)The Swiss can decide what they want in their own country.2) In the last 60 years, how many churches have been constructed in the muslim countries? Zero!3) In the last 60 years, how many mosques have been constructed in Europe? Thousands!4) Every islamic commentator speaks about “discrimination” but tolerance is a 2-way street.5) When in Rome, do as the Romans do!6) Are the muslims in Europe listening?7) Don’t be bamboozled by the premise that the Muslim countries will relax restrictions on infidels. Just read the Koran!!

Posted by Professor Aig Hedd | Report as abusive

This anti-Islamic response by the Swiss is a natural reaction to the fears that many Europeans feel toward the fanaticism and violence demonstrated by extremist Muslim terror groups since 9/11/2001.You can see a definite change in tolerances and attitudes.I think that the situation will get worse because there are no voices of moderation from either side.

Posted by Patrick Arias | Report as abusive

I believe that no matter what other countries do as far as religous rights are concerned, western countries should not respond by curtailing what freedoms we have already. Whether they be freedom speech or religion. It’s not the physical layout of a church, mosque, or temple that we express our faith to, but the moral and spiritual relief that we feel when we do so. A building with or without minarets is not a threat, but our misconceived notion that the people who enter such a building may harbour ill feelings towards those of us who are not of the same religion as they are. I happen to be baptized catholic and roman catholic at that. I know that there are people who also think that catholics are “bad” people and vice versa. Justa as there are cristians who think that the jews really did kill Jesus Christ. Is there truly one real god or are there as many gods as there are religions. Who knows, all i know is that is that there is only one hell and we’re living in it.

Posted by Josefo | Report as abusive

As a believing Catholic, I think its sad that a majority of Swiss voters wants to ban Muslim minarets in their country, which was the first to find a way to peace between Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation. And I wonder if much of this vote was not so much anti-Muslim as anti-religious generally in that now heavily secularized country. In any case “tit for tat” reasoning, based on the idea that churches are banned in some Muslim countries, makes no sense for a genuine Christian, who is supposed to reply to hatred with love. Jesus said, that we should do to our neighbors as we would do to ourselves and when asked by Jews to explain, he told the story of “The Good Samaritan”, a member of a religious group Jews despised. Also practice toward Christians varies widely in Arab and Muslim countries. I have even read of the Prince of one of the Emirates even contributing his own money to build a church for Christian workers in his country.

Posted by David Irby | Report as abusive

This is nothing but a legacy of 9/11, the cartoon controvercy and all the other terrorist acts around the world. It’s about time muslims realized they and Islam are as much (if not more) victims of the terrorists but in a different and more permanent way. But muslims are too weak to do anything about it even if they agree. They are incapable of debating anything within Islam.

Posted by R.S.S | Report as abusive

Deo Gratias!! Other countries need to follow the Swiss’s lead.

Posted by Tomas | Report as abusive

A Christian Church would not be allowed to be built in an Islamic state, and on that premise Mosques should never be allowed to be built in Christian countries! One cannot turn the TV on, or the PC come to that, without hearing Islam moaning about their rights of worship!

Posted by B. Dumayne | Report as abusive

The bishop is more driven by his faith which is not in nationality/ country but in creating slaves for himself where ever he or she is. Swiss citizens should think about their country rather than this Bishop or Vatican or France all who are on brink of failure. The pope of vtican will sell any thing to get slaves for himself while Head of France in name of secularism, indulges more in religious activities of appeasing muslims on cost of non muslims.

Posted by The Bitter Pill | Report as abusive

See pictures of churches in Egypt =safari&rls=en&q=church+in+egypt&ie=UTF- 8&oe=UTF-8the first one is beautiful.Also, now the swiss want to ban muslim and jewish cemeteries 09/12/03/1009507/swiss-leader-calls-for- jewish-cemetery-ban

Posted by mary | Report as abusive

I think the ban on Minarets in Switzerland is a good thing because before it happened, the issue of unequal rights religious minorities in Muslim countries has been ignored by the international community for years, and western countries dared not upset those Muslim countries for fears over the oil supply. Now that this has happened, Muslims are forced into a the much needed dialog with all the world’s other religions.If global trade talks is about goods and services, then religion is about the trade of ideas. When one player openly practices protectionism, as Islam does, it cannot expect others to give it free trade until it plays by the same rules. Therefore, I strongly support taking punitive action against the protectionist and force Islamic countries to negotiate and back down. Tolerance cannot be a one-way street. To accept the status quo for Christians, Jews, Hindus and others who currently reside in Muslim countries as minorities is moral capitulation.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

More life as cartoon politics! Come on Rueters you wouldn’t dream of asking us to vote on whether synoguges should be allowed in the US Bible Belt ( although half the idiots posting here would probably vote to ban them as well ) so please, the Swiss have always had perverse ways of showing the rest of the world how dumb they are like the fascination with yodelling , grown men wearing short trousers and trying to pass off laundering really dirty money as Christian and wholseome. Don’t encourage them.

Posted by desik | Report as abusive

I think the arguments by the Swiss are nothing more than the call of xenophobic racists thugs who want to condemn Muslims for having good moral and family values that Christians in Europe lack.The argument that the Muslim world has been too hard on Christians and other minorities is nonsense. Pakistan’s cities have many prominent churches, Sikh temples, so does Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Muslim countries even have MP spots reserved for non-Muslims (Pakistan, Iran, etc.). Boutros-Ghali was Foreign Minsiter in Egypt and Tariq Azis in Iraq- where does racist Christian world have such prominent Muslims?The lack of new churches in the Muslim world has to do with the fact that the Christian populations in them are a) not staying (prefering the comfortable life in the West), b) not growing like Muslim populations in Europe. It may also have something to do with the fact that Muslims don’t like building churches for people who love to bomb, invade, rape them and steal their oil.Also, Muslim countries do not advertize themselves as leaders on human rights, equality, etc. Unlike the hypocrites in Europe. If you are a white and Christian nation then stop fooling immigrants with boisterous claims of being ‘fair’ and call yourself the racist Christian bigot you are!

Posted by Akhman | Report as abusive

The fall of minaret, the rise of conscience

A silent revolution took place in the world while Muslims were celebrating Eid festival. Most of the global citizens of our planet may not be aware of this critical turning point of current world affair. The repercussion of this defining moment is immense and far-fetched. Swiss ban on minarets by applying the tool of democracy has sent a strong and irreparable wrong signal to 1.57 billion people of Muslim faith. Isn’t an irony that Swiss core values become jeopardized due to the erection of 4-6 meter concrete bar? This is the first time since 1893, when a strong discriminatory initiative has been constitutionalized aiming to single out a specific community in Switzerland. The preachers of secularism, rationalism and freedom of expression become tight-lipped when Islam or Muslim is attacked irrationally in the land of “Enlightenment”. Sometimes, few faint voices are heard in order to protect the business interest in the Muslim world. Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, a professor of Islamic Studies in Oxford and Erasmus University, has nicely depicted the current islamophobic phenomenon in Europe in an article in the Guardian:

“The minarets are but a pretext – the UDC (far-right political party) wanted first to launch a campaign against the traditional Islamic methods of slaughtering animals but were afraid of testing the sensitivity of Swiss Jews, and instead turned their sights on the minaret as a suitable symbol…
Every European country has its specific symbols or topics through which European Muslims are targeted. In France it is the headscarf or burka; in Germany, mosques; in Britain, violence; cartoons in Denmark; homosexuality in the Netherlands – and so on. It is important to look beyond these symbols and understand what is really happening in Europe in general and in Switzerland in particular: while European countries and citizens are going through a real and deep identity crisis, the new visibility of Muslims is problematic – and it is scary.”

You can verify his observation yourself by just reading the mostly recommended comments in “Have your say” on BBC website.

There are only four minarets all over Switzerland. These minarets have not built for prayer call, just erected as a symbol of Islamic architecture. In the pretext of protecting Swiss heritage and culture, mosques were vandalized during ban campaign. Streets were littered with pro-ban posters, showing a black female figure in a Muslim veil and black minarets all over Swiss map piercing like missiles. All these anti-Muslim hysterias are not related to minarets. This proves the blatant show of prejudice and intolerance in the proudly claimed ‘tolerant society’. There was hardly any protest against this hate-mongering campaign from the so-called conscience segment of the society. People’s reactions all over Europe revealed after this ban are so frightening, reminding the era of Nazism.

Europe feels very proud to claim that they are the torch-bearer of tolerance, equality and acceptance regardless of race, creed or religion. If the so called educated, enlightened, well to do (compared to developing countries) folks in Europe show this kind of bigotry and act in this manner (rampaging the place of worship, vandalizing the graveyard) one may wonder what they would really do if they were in the same condition as people of Afghanistan. It is so pathetic that many Europeans are dragging this issue towards Saudi Arabia and ‘rationally’ arguing that Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow churches, so Swiss are right to ban minarets or mosques. This is where secular democratic nations should be taking their moral cues from? Many of us unaware the fact that churches including steeples can be built in most Muslim countries. Is there any mosque in the Vatican- the headquarter of Christian faith?

Why is Muslim or Islam a big issue in Europe?

The European society is failing. The fast declining birth rate is worrying European thinkers. Anti-social phenomenon such as gay movement, cohabitation without marriage and other moral decadences are contributing to the acceleration of this dwindling population. Even in overtly religious American society, marriage couples become minority (here). This scenario is more terrifying in Europe (here). On the other hand, the whole continent is graying. The over-65 population is expected to rise from 15.4% of the EU population in 1995 to 22.4% by 2025. According to a BBC article, “with fewer, younger workers to pay the health and pension bills of an elderly population, states face an unprecedented fiscal burden. The dependency ratio of those aged 65 and over to those of working age looks set to double from one-to-four to one-to-two in 2050”. Europe’s ageing workforce (here).

To keep moving the wheel of European economy, intellectuals are urging for more immigrants to supplement the declining population. Muslim countries, in general, are poor and have higher population growth rate. As a result, Muslims are migrating in the West for better future. Historically, after the fall of Muslim era, most of the Muslim lands were colonized by European countries. Muslim issue was largely unheard until the middle of 20th century. While leaving occupied countries, they made friendship treaty. One of the major aims of this treaty is to protect those people who helped them (occupiers). For this reason, we can see majority of the immigrants in UK from Indian subcontinent, Algerians in France and so on.

In an environment of extremely low birth rates in most of Europe, Muslim population continues to grow. This scenario has fueled concerns in the European society and general perception is that the region will eventually have a Muslim majority. Concerns about the rapid growth of Muslims are based on popular perceptions, not statistical evidence. Because many European countries do not ask a person’s religion on official forms or in censuses, it has been difficult to obtain accurate estimates of the number or childbearing rates of Muslims. You may watch an interesting video, even though data in the video might be inaccurate or can be questioned. Muslim demographics are changing in the West and how Islam is taking firm root. This video clip aimed to represent the Muslim or Islam as a threat to the Western society.

Changing Muslim demographics (7 min)

Here is the BBC’s response of this video (5 min)

Muslim population in Europe (Wiki)
The EU’s baby blues (BBC Article)

Based on these videos and resourceful articles, you might reach to a conclusion. For European, it is hard to digest but the reality is that Islamization of Europe is the natural consequence of secularism/materialism/atheism. There is no way to stop this development. Arrogance, fear-mongering and hatred won’t be effective to hinder this inevitable outcome. Social integration of immigrants pointing to Muslim is a major political issue in EU. Muslims are always labeled as intolerant since they can’t adopt the core European values, such as homosexuality and belief in evolution theory. Recent polls find that Muslims in Britain have zero tolerance of homosexuality. It would be ignorant to think that immigrants are the burden of the society; rather they are contributing to the country. Therefore, both parties are mutually benefited. When a nation is on the verge of identity crisis, they start showing over concerns regarding values and heritage. Accepting the diversity would be the catalyst of better civilization.

Banning the Islamic symbols such as minaret or hijab will not stop the spreading of Islam in Europe; rather all these racist attitudes would facilitate its propagation. Islam will prevail peacefully in Europe in due time without the use of any violence or extremism. Majority of the Muslim and most non-Muslim in the West are not aware about the beauty of Islam (See video: understanding of Islam in Europe). Light eliminates darkness; same is true for Islam, which would illuminate every conscience people on earth. of-minaret-the-rise-of-conscience/

Posted by Sorowar | Report as abusive

Whatever Sarovar has said is false. There is nothing to prove that Koran, a cheap copy of Judaism offers peace. It is nomadic gibberish, full of satanic verses, like bible. Both Bible and Koran are violation of copy right and intellectual property laws. If financial enalties related to these laws are levied on Muslims and Christians, they will be poorest persons on earth and then will burn their respective books and once in entire life earn bread and wealth by hard work than murder, rob, loot, pillage, genocide, which they are habitual to when were devoid of wealth.

Posted by UrghAllah | Report as abusive

As minorities in Western societities, Muslims competently articulate the language of civil
liberties and tolerance; as majorities in the lands of their origin, Muslims too often show no tolerance for diversity and dissent. In Europe, Muslims often demand the dismantling
of commonly accepted, cultural norms that may be based on the long history of Christianity in Europe, but demand “respect” for the religious demands of their faith and the demands that may place on the larger society. They can react in stunning communal
violence at the mere hint of criticism or lack of deference to their religious symbols and icons, but react in stunning indifference when children are blown up on their way to school, women are routinely abused and debased by the standards of their faith, and atrocious, mindless violence is continually committed in their collective name. Swiss are not bigoted; they are frightened, as well they should be.

Posted by rusgo | Report as abusive

Of course Christians in Europe should be tolerant. They should not retaliate for the ill-treatment of Christians in Moslem countries.

On the other hand, as a human being, one cannot help being just a little surprised that our tolerance is not reciprocated in places like Turkey, or indeed, on the Arabian peninsula.

Posted by BennettRobertJ | Report as abusive

i am an Indian Hindu from India and fully support this ban by the Swiss people. I am happy that for the first time in history the civilized world has acted against the double standards of the Islamic world.

Mr Sorowar: India or any other non-islamic democratic nation is a testimony to the vicious designs of Islam. Islam follows what is known as the womb bomb to convert any non-islamic nation to Islam. Muslims have 2-3 times the birth rate than the other people and plan to overtake the nation and convert it to Islam. India today had 20% of Islamic population, when it won freedom the population was 5%. Day is not far when you will start another civilwar in India for another islamic state like Pakistan again.

Posted by indian_hindu | Report as abusive

Sarovar completely ignores the facts as they have existed for decades , but are now coming to the forefront.
The freedoms we have in the west, that simply do not exist in the world of Islam , including freedom of religion , have been abused , and used against westerners for many years now ; pre-dating 9/11.Franted ; minarets are a non-issue. But the reaction to cartoons in Demark, a teddy bear in Sudan, and a factual film on the oppression of women , produced in Holland, were shockingly , lethally ; and childishly ; inappropriate to say the least.The concept of Muslim unity is a myth.Left to their own devices , they slaughter each other with abandon. So as not to be misunderstood , it is self evident , that most Muslims are peaceful, decent, and hard working people. Everywhere.Then came 9/11. One of the most significant facts about that day of terror is the fact that in the WTC towers alone, people representing 83 different countries were murdered.Then , the attacks on innocents in London and Madrid.Sarovar has the uninformed audacity to let people off the hook based on chosen and unproveable beliefs , then consistently and irrationally ; attacks an entire segment of humanity for simply being who they are : homosexual persons. While western soldiers are sacrificing their lives to help establish some element free of tyranny and brutality for the people , there are organized groups touring Afghanistan and Iraq , hunting down those they believe to be gay , and killing them on the spot.Others throw acid in the faces of young Muslim girls on their way to school.
Think about it ….there has to be something dreadfully lacking , and little hope for a future of promise and prosperity ; for young people , in societies that are able to produce a seemingly endless supply of suicide bombers.
We in the west , of all faiths or no specific religiosity, can easily live with Muslims , with peace, harmony and friendship. It is the leaders and radicals who take seriously the innate teaching that we are “pigs’ and “dogs’ , and most importantly ; infidels , that we will always be on guard against.
Finally , our western values that encompass democracy, liberty, due process, and equality for all; are not negotiable. There may well be zero tolerance for homosexuals in any conservative religion , but in enlightened countries with rights extended to every citizen, there might never be acceptance , but tolerance is demanded under the law.

Posted by Bartski | Report as abusive

Islamic states execute people for converting from Islam to another faith. Women can be stoned to death by their families for being unfaithful. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Islam is the most intolerant religion in the world today! They are outraged because the Swiss don’t want minerts? Hurray for the Swiss! Down with Iran’s satanic leaders!

Posted by havaiisteve | Report as abusive

Minaret Ban signifys Collective NO by Swis Society against ARAB CULTURAL IMPERIALISM. In today’s modern world you don’t need muzzin to call the faithful by shouting on Minaret.
Swiss are secular, they have not banned practice of Islamic religion. They have just voted against Arab symbolism. Muslims worldwide could have stoped this embarassment by taking control of islam themselve, rather than allowing Sheikhs to dictate.
Iran is non-issue. This is simple tussle between islamic world for supermacy within itself. Soon Turkey may come up with stuff like this. Sheikhs work silently.

Sorovar answer me. Egyt & Jordan have long history of civilatzation, much before Arab arriving on scence. Did they accept only Islam or ARAB + Islam. They accepted both in fear of advancing armies. Only Iram and India resisted, so Iran is not an Arab Republic. As for India, British liberated it from Islamic rule. And much of terrorism existing in India is in order to bring it back to Islamic rule. We are resisting it for 30 yrs, thanks to western indifference & continues appeasement for Oil.

Posted by Shantunu | Report as abusive

Please note that there are Catholic churches in Bahrain (where I’m freely allowed to practice my catholic faith), several in the UAE, in Kuwait, and (most recently built and the biggest Catholic Church in the Middle East) in Qatar.

Other new churches are also in the planning stage and in most of these, it is the goverment which provides free land to which the churches are built on. I believe that this freedom to build is what we do not want to risk with the Swiss actions.

Posted by jotonoc | Report as abusive

These Muslim haters used to hate Jews some time back, Same people were behind Genocide of 6 million Jewish people, Now they are coming up false stories of Islamic atrocities on Christian countries, while attacking Many Muslim countries and destroying them .

Search google images with this text “Church Masque” , There is not a single Christian majority country in world where both Masque and Churches are side by side, You will find hundreds of photos from Muslim majority countries where Churches and Masques are side by
side. So that means when Christian are majority they don’t allow masque near their Churches. but tolerant Muslims do.

White Christianity is totalitarian ideology, They don’t tolerate any body who does not look like them , talk like them or walk like them. Red Indians were first victims of this intolerant cult, than blacks, than people in their Colonies, than Jews (WW2), Now Muslims
are new target of this cult.

Posted by truthywood | Report as abusive