Swiss vote to ban minarets fuels fear of Islam

Category: Europe, World Affairs Topics: Switzerland Views: 3563
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It wasn't meant to go this way. For months we had been told that the efforts to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland were doomed. The last surveys suggested around 34 percent of the Swiss population would vote for this shocking initiative. Last Friday, in a meeting organized in Lausanne, more than 800 students, professors and citizens were in no doubt that the referendum would see the motion rejected, and instead were focused on how to turn this silly initiative into a more positive future. 

Today that confidence was shattered, as 57 percent of the Swiss population did as the Union Democratique du Centre (UDC) had urged them to -- a worrying sign that this populist party may be closest to the people's fears and expectations. For the first time since 1893 an initiative that singles out one community, with a clear discriminatory essence, has been approved in Switzerland. One can hope that the ban will be rejected at the European level, but that makes the result no less alarming. What is happening in Switzerland, the land of my birth? 

There are only four minarets in Switzerland, so why is it that it is there that this initiative has been launched? My country, like many in Europe, is facing a national reaction to the new visibility of European Muslims. The minarets are but a pretext -- the UDC 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. 

At the very moment Europeans find themselves asking, in a globalizing, migratory world, "What are our roots?", "Who are we?", "What will our future look like?", they see around them new citizens, new skin colors, new symbols to which they are unaccustomed. 

Over the last two decades Islam has become connected to so many controversial debates -- violence, extremism, freedom of speech, gender discrimination, forced marriage, to name a few -- it is difficult for ordinary citizens to embrace this new Muslim presence as a positive factor. There is a great deal of fear and a palpable mistrust. Who are they? What do they want? And the questions are charged with further suspicion as the idea of Islam being an expansionist religion is intoned. Do these people want to Islamize our country? 

The campaign against the minarets was fuelled by just these anxieties and allegations. Voters were drawn to the cause by a manipulative appeal to popular fears and emotions. Posters featured a woman wearing a burka with the minarets drawn as weapons on a colonized Swiss flag. The claim was made that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Swiss values. (The UDC has in the past demanded my citizenship be revoked because I was defending Islamic values too openly.) Its media strategy was simple but effective. Provoke controversy wherever it can be inflamed. Spread a sense of victimhood among the Swiss people: we are under siege, the Muslims are silently colonizing us and we are losing our very roots and culture. This strategy worked. The Swiss majority are sending a clear message to their Muslim fellow citizens: we do not trust you and the best Muslim for us is the Muslim we cannot see. 

Who is to be blamed? I have been repeating for years to Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and proactive within their respective western societies. In Switzerland, over the past few months, Muslims have striven to remain hidden in order to avoid a clash. It would have been more useful to create new alliances with all these Swiss organizations and political parties that were clearly against the initiative. Swiss Muslims have their share of responsibility but one must add that the political parties, in Europe as in Switzerland have become cowed, and shy from any courageous policies towards religious and cultural pluralism. It is as if the populists set the tone and the rest follow. They fail to assert that Islam is by now a Swiss and a European religion and that Muslim citizens are largely "integrated". That we face common challenges, such as unemployment, poverty and violence -- challenges we must face together. We cannot blame the populists alone -- it is a wider failure, a lack of courage, a terrible and narrow-minded lack of trust in their new Muslim citizens. 

Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, is professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University.


  Category: Europe, World Affairs
  Topics: Switzerland
Views: 3563

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Older Comments:
BABANDI A GUMEL FROM UK said:
Romesh Chander the Crusader wants Muslims to join the crusaders like him in drinking gambling and other evil things that are well known to all as evil so as to become intoxicated or else they should be driven out of Europe the crusaders continent which is not theirs. He wants the Muslims to overeact with this very unfortunate apparent provocation and Alhamdu Lillahi they acted wisely and refused to be drawn to Chanders and cos ploy.Even though he shows he is sympathetic with the Muslims but as usual he harbours something and is against them and their usual just cause.We again appeal to our brothers and sisters not do anything that would tarnish the image of our Deen which is the true Deen. At the same time we pray to pepeole like Romesh to get hidayah so as to realise what they are plotting as evil and come to accept the truth Unfortunately People like Romesh want destroy the Deen with their tongues but Allah has promised to go with His Light even people like him would detest otherwise.The Muslims would continue to live in Europe and flourish everywhere as they form part of the human race. They should be allowed to practice their religion anywhere like any other human beings all over the world without fear of being persucuted or descriminated against as enshrined in all the worlds constitutions and the UN Charter. Everyone has got right especially in the so called civilised world where even animals have rights.So why can,t the Muslims enjoy the same right like all other human beings. Do unto others what you want people do unto you which is the true teachings of all the Prophets and Just rulers.
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YAHAYA FROM NIGERIA said:
Muslims & Muslim nations must diligently pursue muslim values/symbols as contained in the Holy books. They must make it an integral part of world culture,values & symbols.
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MUSLIM FROM UK said:
At first, naturally I was a little disturbed, though now I feel elated at the chance Allah has given us to win honours in this world & the next, insha'Allah. Continental Europe is steadily retreating to its anti-Semitic fascist period, with fear of Islam replacing Judaism. No wonder Hitler-admiring Aryan Hindutvadis are engaging in schadenfraude. No, Islam has a Sunnah & it is the trials of Makkah for us to gain rewards by challenging those wish to destroy us. As for Switzerland they have forgotten their own history in the Protestant anti-Catholic period for religious diversity. They are betraying their own values of Calvin & Zwingli. WASP politicians are well aware of the intricacies & weaknesses of different forms of democaracy. That is why pandering to populist hysteria has been moderated by MPs in the UK. Such populist rabble-rousing has led to Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy & Indian pogroms. Muslims should launch a multi-pronged peaceful programme against Ein Volk, Ein Reich,Ein Fuhrer.
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FA FROM US said:
Hmmm... I think Muslims have already held those Europeans standards for quite some time.. Rather than calling it European standards, the new phenomena would be adopting Western standards... If you go to any Muslim nation, you will see a good dose of that standard and that fitting in process...

That is actually the reason why the situation is where it is in the world, is because Muslims have abandoned their religion and teachings...as the belief of Islam clearly points out that God says that he would never change the condition of nation until it changes whats within (or themselves). As you can see, within is a very broad concept and there are too many problems in the muslim population to begin with.
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ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
Politically, Swiss are quite boring. They were looking for some attention. But not the kind of attention they are getting.

Geert Wilders in Holland must be overjoyed; he may even become Prime Minister of Holland next time. Mr Sarkozy (France) must be getting scared that next time he may not be kicked out by the right wing.

Watch out what happens next in UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Holland.

What should muslims do? Act like Europeans do. Europeans have abandoned religion. They drink. They don't respect marriage. And, they cheat in business (remember banking crisis). Now, if muslims cannot adopt to these European values, they should leave Europe; it is not for them.
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