The Swiss Council of Religions, which is composed of leaders from the country’s Christian, Jewish and Islamic organisations, has issued a statement rejecting a proposed ban on minarets. A group of right-wing anti-immigrant politicians has gathered more than 100,000 signatures to support the so-called Minaret Initiative, saying the minarets threaten law and order. The vote is due on November 29.
The Swiss federal government has warned that the referendum vote was organised legally but a ban would violate international human rights and the country’s constitution. “Such a ban would endanger peace between religions and would not help to prevent the spread of fundamentalist Islamic beliefs,” its Department of Justice and Police said in late August.
The Council statement, the first it has made on a political issue since it was formed in 2006 to foster interfaith dialogue, denounces the bid as an affront to the tradition of diversity in the multilingual Alpine country. Here are some excerpts from the statement:
“The Swiss Council of Religions decisively rejects the Minaret Initiative. The Council, which consists of leaders from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities, is dedicated to protecting religious peace in Switzerland and to strengthening trust among the churches and religious communities. The Minaret Initiative would bring about just the opposite. It instrumentalizes religion for political aims and engenders mistrust among the populace…
“Switzerland has known cultural diversity for a long time. It is part of its history and characteristic of the Swiss identity. The people of this country have developed rules and systems of coexistence in the course of a long common history. The resulting rules are such an integral part of the cultural tradition of the country that its people are hardly aware of them in explicit terms; and at the center of this democratic self-image lies in the recognition of the freedom of each individual within the framework of a legal order that is equally binding for all…”