Swiss voters pass ban on minarets


Muslim leaders from around the world, senior church figures, European politicians and human rights experts have deplored Switzerland's decision to ban the building of minarets.

The polarising verdict in a Swiss referendum held yesterday raised fundamental questions about discrimination and freedom of religion, with the Swiss government itself doubtful over whether the popular vote could be translated into national law, as required by the country's system of direct democracy.

"Scandalous," said the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, while Babacar Ba, a senior official of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, warned of an "upsurge in Islamophobia" in Europe.

But far right leaders in Europe applauded the Swiss vote and called for parallel prohibitions in other countries.

"The flag of a courageous Switzerland which wants to remain Christian is flying over a near-Islamised Europe," said Mario Borghezio, an MEP from Italy's anti-immigrant Northern League.

In the Netherlands, the anti-Muslim Freedom party of Geert Wilders, which is steadily growing in popularity, called for a similar vote for the Dutch. "It's the first time that people in Europe have stood up to a form of Islamisation," it declared.

Despite Swiss fears of a violent backlash in the Islamic world and business fears of an adverse impact on Arab spending in Geneva and Zurich, as well as exports to the Middle East, Muslim leaders reacted mostly with sorrow. "The main thing is to keep calm and to realise how much work still needs to be done to defend basic freedoms," said Ba, the OIC ambassador in Geneva."We must do this by taking a constructive part in the debate on all issues which cause fear and concern, and to try to bring people together in order to confront extremism."

The surprisingly high vote of 57% for the minaret ban put the Swiss government and establishment on the defensive, engaged in damage limitation. In Brussels, the Swiss justice minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, who opposed a ban, argued that the vote was neither against the Muslim community nor against Islam. She sought to explain the decision to EU interior ministers, some of whom were highly critical.

The Vatican denounced the ban as an infringement of religious freedom.

Roman Catholic bishops in Swizerland issued a statement regretting the ban, accusing the rightwing Swiss People's party, which spearheaded the prohibition campaign, of caricaturing and exaggerating the alleged threat posed by Muslims, and also warned that the ban "will not help Christians oppressed and persecuted in Islamic countries".

Under the rules of Switzerland's direct democracy, which leans heavily on single issue referenda, yesterday's vote compels the government to amend the constitution. The article defining church-state relations will acquire a new sentence stating: "the building of minarets in Switzerland is forbidden".

But the government and parliament knows that this will breach the European convention on human rights and the UN charter proscribing discrimination on religious grounds and entrenching freedom of religion.

The clause would be discriminatory because it singles out one religion, Islam, for restrictive treatment.The backers of the campaign respond that this is irrelevant since minarets have nothing to do with religion, but are a "political symbol". Mosque-building is not being banned and Muslims in Switzerland are free to observe their religion, they argue.

While there are only four minarets in a country that is home to 400,000 Muslims, a dispute over the erection of another minaret in the town of Langenthal is stuck in the courts amid appeals and counter-appeals about building licences.

The case could now end up at the European court of human rights in Strasbourg, taking years to be settled.


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  8 Comments   Comment

  1. Muhammad Moncatar from Saudi Arabia

    The comment of the Roman Catholic bishops in

    Switzerland is not true. Quote: warned that the

    ban will not help Christians oppressed and

    persecuted in Islamic countries". In the entire

    history of Islam, there was no single Christian

    persecuted by any Islamic Government, may be I'm,

    show me one. Personally, the ban of the minaret is

    due to pure ignorant in Islam, Christian religious

    bigotry and racism. To know Islam is by through

    its pure teachings not through the ignorant

    Muslims in your community. May Allah (God) bless

    us all.

    Regards,

    Muhammad

  2. Nuraini from Malaysia

    well, so long as they don't ban the mosques themselves. i'm assuming that the mosques and minarets proposed are swiss in architecture, as a gesture to the adopted country. even so, we can do without minarets, these things take time.

  3. Hajjah Alaisa Mukasa from Uganda

    Assalaam aleikum, i applaud brother Babandi.A. Gumal and brother Shuja Syed for their comments. We have more pressing issues than just the ban of minarets in Switzerland. Most of us debate about islamic issues yet we do not practice Islam as commanded by Allah. Let us look deep within ourselves and start the fight against Islam there; Let us sincerely be the 'believers' mentioned in the Quran the rest will follow.

    May Allah strength us as true believers and guide us to the Straight Path. Ameen

  4. Shuja Syed from Canada

    There is no doubt that this a symbolic attack on Islam. However, Allah the Almighty and the Prophet (saw) had declared war on those people who refuse to establish prayers and pay Zakat. Look around. How many Muslims pray and pay Zakat? We are not in war with other people, but we are at war with Allah Subhan o Tala and the Prophet (saw). Declare ceasefire, otherwise we will be finished. Refusing to establish Salat and Zakat is already bringing calamaties after calamaties upon us. Go to Fajr or other prayers and find out how many Muslims are coming to prayers in under those minarates.

  5. Yusuf from Canada

    Well said John. We have so many other issues to worry about. I thank you all who supported and thanks to all goverments who permitted to build mosques.

  6. Robert Kolakowski from USA/POLAND/ANZAC

    Great Article:

    If you are not

    'Umar'ite (Party/Sect of 'Umar)

    If you are not

    member of the Party/Sect of Ali

    and if you are not a so--called Progressive,

    you should boycott everything made--in--Switzerland; otherwise, you would look like a hypocrite.

  7. John from Singapore

    To all Muslims .

    Please be calm and don't over react .

    No to street protest and demonstration .

    The best way is to boycott Swiss products .

    Wassalam

  8. Babandi A.Gumel from U.K

    Muslims all over should not overreact to this episode created deliberately to provoke them.As they say if somebody acts then reaction follows that action which is calculated to provoke us so we should not bother the least even if some of our brothers and sisters are going to react they should do it with dignity.Alhamdu lillahi may be this is Khair for the Ummah we should continue to invite people to the Deen with Hikmah as Minaret is not part of the Faraidh of our Din nor is it Sunnah or even Mustahaab.The right wing party only wanted us to react as I said we should not do anything as our Creator has promised to defend His Deen.Alhamdu Lillahi we are seeing the Non-Muslims are standing against the ban and defending the defencless Muslims due to what they perceive as injustice. Will they ban construction of churches with minarets? Let them ask themselves whether it is right or not.We should remember it is only small minority of people in Europe that are in favour of such ban.Switzerland is one of the most peaceful Countries I have ever seen in Europe.This why for years they are outside the European treaty.At the same time the Government of Swizerland should not be blamed as they allowed the Muslims to build the Mosque only the controversial minaret became an issue which to me is not.May Allah give our brothers and sisters taufiq to follow the Deen like doing their five times Salah,giving Zakkah,fasting in Ramadan,Hajj Tilawatil Quran Zikirillah and other more important fundementals of our Deen.We should be more concerned with protecting them than the so called minaret which is not Sunnah or Fard therefore is of secondary importance and is not a big deal whether we are allowed to contruct Mosque with minaret or not.Alhamdu Lillahi at least they allow us to construct the Mosque and practice our Deen which is Niimah we should thank Allah who will increase His bounty on us.So our intention should be like that in the article regarding the Cobbler making sincere intention.