Monday, November 30, 2009

Swiss Damage Tradition Of Tolerance With Ban On Minarets

In a development that will increase the alienation, not assimilation, of Switzerland's Muslim minority and promote ethnic hostility instead of harmony, the Swiss have voted to ban the construction of minarets. The constitutional ban, 57.5 percent for and 42.5 percent against, was opposed by the government and represents a victory by the right-wing Swiss People's Party, which promoted Islamophobia:

Campaign posters [above] depicting a Swiss flag sprouting black, missile-shaped minarets alongside a woman shrouded in a niqab, a head-to-toe veil that shows only the eyes, starkly illustrated the determination of the right to play on deep-rooted fears that Muslim immigration would lead to an erosion of Swiss values.

The demographic makeup of the Muslim minority in Switzerland and the actual construction of minarets reveal that images of a fundamentalist takeover amount to fear-mongering:

Of 150 mosques or prayer rooms in Switzerland, only 4 have minarets, and only 2 more minarets are planned. None conduct the call to prayer. There are about 400,000 Muslims in a population of some 7.5 million people. Close to 90 percent of Muslims in Switzerland are from Kosovo and Turkey, and most do not adhere to the codes of dress and conduct associated with conservative Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, said Manon Schick, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International in Switzerland.

Switzerland's vote damages the country's reputation for tolerance:

The government must now draft a supporting law on the ban, a process that could take at least a year and could put Switzerland in breach of international conventions on human rights.

...“That Switzerland, a country with a long tradition of religious tolerance and the provision of refuge to the persecuted, should have accepted such a grotesquely discriminatory proposal is shocking,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Amnesty International’s deputy program director for Europe and Central Asia.

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