Sunday, 29 November 2009

Switzerland forbids minarets in referendum: What a sad day!

Europe in the 21st century is a multicultural continent, with multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and multi-religions societies (including non-religious people) - and Switzerland doesn't seem to belong to Europe today.

The Swiss have shown that they truly don't want to belong to this continent by rejecting that minarets may be built together with mosques. They have shown to the world that they want to be a place apart from European values.

These values might have evolved in societies where the majorities were and are Christians, but they have also evolved on a continent that seemed to have learned that religious freedom - the freedom to believe or not to believe whatever one wants - as other individual and collective freedoms need to be respected.

These values have evolved in a continent where migrants and children of migrants and grandchildren of migrant are not a small minority anymore but an integral part of this our common society. In this society, having churches, church towers and their church bells must by as possible as having a minaret with a mosque - or as drawing satirical cartoons about Jesus and Mohammed.

The Swiss referendum rejects this European history and these European values, it is a rejection of the Europe of the 21st century, a Europe where majorities don't rule over the rights of minorities, where minorities are not threatened by what is "normal" or "acceptable" for the majority.

In the Europe we live in today, we try to find common solutions that allow the respect for the freedom and dignity of each and everyone, although this is hard sometimes. Yes, it might be necessary to debate about the shape of a free and multicultural society, but rejecting religious freedom including the right to build appropriate buildings in which this religion may be performed is not the solution.

This victory of xenophobia in Switzerland proves how much we have to fight for the rights of every citizen and person on this continent, it proves that what we regard as given today may be lost tomorrow - and I as a German think I know what I am talking about.

The Europe the Swiss have voted for today is not my Europe, and I hope no country of the European Union will ever follow this sad example!

PS.: And regarding the argument that "this is democracy", I just want to add that decisions against particular groups are decision against equal rights, thus against the foundation of democracy. Had the Swiss voted against all high towers representing a religious or non-religious belief, this would have been a democratic decision respecting its own foundations - forbidding just minarets is discrimination.

19 comments:

Grahnlaw said...

Julien,

I agree with much of what you say. This is a sad day for Europe, of which Switzerland is a part, although somewhat apart.

A cynical campaign to sow discord has "succeeded" to do that. When we think of the disproportionate reactions to an individual Danish cartoonist and a newspaper acting within the rules of free speech, this manifestation of the will of a nation will cause feelings of humiliation and anger, easy to exploit for hate-preachers, putting Swiss diplomatic missions, firms and expats at risk (and perhaps others).

This is once again an example of the effects of referendums. Women's suffrage at the federal level was approved only in 1971 in Switzerland.

Representative democracy is to a large extent majority rule, but combined with provisions for the protection of freedoms (unalienable rights, respect for human dignity) it can help build more tolerant societies.

As you say, these questions are difficult:

I would not be comfortable with muezzins calling the faithful to prayer six times a day if using loudspeakers to overpower everything else in the vicinity, but I do not mind church bells ringing at times.

I feel split about crucifixes in secular state schools; should they be abolished through the courts, or should we tolerate different customs?

How about clothing and other symbols? Can you study, work and interact as a free citizen, if you wear a burqa? Can anyone condone genital mutilation?

Somehow we need to look for answers together, at a European level, learning from mistakes, but somehow we should preserve a sense of humanity in our efforts.

Prejudices and referendums are a lethal combination. The Swiss have shown us that.

nederlander said...

Islam is NOT ONLY a religion, is a form of society that exclude any other form of society. We must stop talking abaut religions and freedom of religions, but over social freedom, and everybody knows that Islam is not a free society. And many of us we want a free society, but really free and strong enaugh. Democracy is moore than freedom for everybody.

Thanks, Switzerland. Freedom is in the wind.

Grahnlaw said...

Nederlander,

Scripture or Church, the agents of religion have all tried to gain the upper hand through the centuries.

It has taken Europe hundreds of years to evolve into a sphere of mainly secular representative democracies, which generally uphold fundamental rights for all.

Are the intolerant and repressive regimes in many Islamic countries good enough reason to sow discord in Europe?

I think not.

Homo sapiens said...

Good morning Julien, I am a medical student in Cairo, Egypt- I am really shocked by the referendum, not only because it violates freedom of religion but it produces terrible effects in the Islamic world just as well, what many people don't know is that populations with Muslim majorities don't all think the same way. Personally, I'm liberal and I believe that a secular state is in the best of everybody's interests and that Europeans are tolerant -I said their support for Denmark's cartoons was emanating from freedom of thought and speech and had nothing special against Islam. But there are extremists that say otherwise and they call you apostate and blasphemous and say that it's a conspiracy against Islam and such sad incidents (as yesterday's referendum) perfectly serve their anti-Western propaganda- it's giving everybody hard time indeed and helping extremists gain more popularity

Julien Frisch said...

I totally agree with, "Homo sapiens".

In this sense, a referendum in Switzerland is also a referendum on global relations. It is sad to see how the hopes for building a more peaceful world are always wrecked by those who only think of their small worlds undermine the work of others trying to make dialogue and common sense rule over extremism and narrow-mindedness.

So thanks for your comment!

Andreas said...

I find it disgusting how, under the cover and disguise of direct democracy, human rights are voted out of a country for an unwanted minority.

I find it disgusting how, calling on the same human rights that were just revoked for some, the right to religious freedom is defended and reserved for the majority of a country.

I find it disgusting how, with a total lack of differentiation and a lack of awareness for many Muslims thinking and acting otherwise, Islam is condemned as wanting to take over the world.

I find it disgusting how, with complete ignorance to the mechanisms of power and influence, some now prouldy proclaim that the people of Switzerland have spoken.

A sad day indeed.

Flasher T said...

Julien - I respectfully disagree.

Are the intolerant and repressive regimes in many Islamic countries good enough reason to sow discord in Europe?

You're talking as if the Swiss have invaded Brussels and put Barroso against the wall. (Which I'm sure some of the people here would applaud, but hey...) If Europe is so weak that a nation's honest democratic expression against the carpet-bombing propaganda of intolerant and repressive regimes will rend it apart, then Europe does not deserve to exist.

Flasher T said...

not only because it violates freedom of religion

It doesn't. It really, really doesn't.

But there are extremists that say otherwise and they call you apostate and blasphemous and say that it's a conspiracy against Islam and such sad incidents (as yesterday's referendum) perfectly serve their anti-Western propaganda- it's giving everybody hard time indeed and helping extremists gain more popularity

Expressions of democracy help Muslim extremists gain popularity? Hell, now I know Switzerland is doing something right.

I find it disgusting how, under the cover and disguise of direct democracy, human rights are voted out of a country for an unwanted minority.

I find it disgusting how you substitute imposition of dogma for human rights. When Switzerland bans mosques, I'll join you on the barricades, meanwhile please relax and stop hijacking the concept of human rights.

I find it disgusting how, with a total lack of differentiation and a lack of awareness for many Muslims thinking and acting otherwise, Islam is condemned as wanting to take over the world.

I find it disgusting how the majority of moderate Muslims refuse to take action against fanatics who claim to speak for them. Why are radical Muslims the problem of secular Europeans?

Homo sapiens said...

Good evening Mr Flasher, I think there's a misunderstanding here. Nobody voted for Bin Laden and his groups and as far as I know no extremist Islamists have obtained informed consent of others so that they might be their legitimate representatives in international committees. Another issue is the distinction between mosque and minaret, and this is something I suggest you try yourself: type "mosque" into Google images and then scroll through the pages and please list to me when you hit the first result of a mosque without a minaret. Here's one thing that is very likely, each Friday these people go to the mosque to pray they will see something missing and I'm sure it isnot a welcoming message to them. Anyway the minaret which started the issue was supposed to be 3metres tall, imagine a 3metre tall minaret on top of a one story modest building, that's a sign of world dominance indeed!

Flasher T said...

Good evening, Mr. Sapiens.

First page of results, second row on my wide-resolution screen, ninth picture from the start.

I don't care if the minaret is 3 meters tall. It's not the minaret, it's the muezzin.

Homo sapiens said...

Good morning Mr Flasher,actually the Tashkent central mosque belongs to a very special style of Islamic architecture which is associated with Central Asia and I assure you that if you visit Cairo (which I would wholeheartedly welcome) I can show you endless varieties of mosques of different periods and styles that have minarets. Also according to my knowledge the Muslim minority in Switzerland come mostly from the Balkans and these build their mosques with the Ottoman style:long slender minarets with tapering ends. About the Muezzin, I don't like them using microphones, that makes a lot of noise- but if a man recites it with his unamplified voice I don't think it will be much of a problem.In the good old days before the advent of mics Muezzin and Muqri' (the man who recites quran) evolved as a vocal profession much comparable to opera singers in Europe and it was really beautiful- I have some old recordings of it, this is by no means parochial because I also love listening to Beethoven's symphony No.9 and I believe vocal performance has a music of its own.
Any way thank you for your comment,in fact in Egypt some people (including me) demand that Muezzins use their unaided voice instead of microphones and that they should all be of good voice, that would make it much more serene

Anonymous said...

Totally agree Homo Sap. The referendum results are a true shame for Switzerland and a Dangerous sign. NEDERLANDER speaks about the Muezzin shouting and disturbing people, Well for one year I lived in Switzerland beside a catholic church and I HAD TO MOVE! They play the BELLS once every 15 minutes and every o’clock hour they play the bell twice as much as the time number (even past midnight), yeah that means for instance at 4:00 am the bell sounds eight very loud times while I'm trying to sleep to recover to work the next day!!!!: I decided to move away from that abusive church. That is really disturbing and nobody is trying to forbid it!. Hey, Switzerland is a secular state (Government separated from religion) so that means no religion should prevail over any other and the law should work if some minority tries to modify society as it is, so no religiouos group should be a threat if the present law WORKS, but at the same time you have to give the different people with different religions the SAME rights, it’s a basic principle of human rights and freedom of cult and speech. You have to regulate the noise emissions (yes but for EVERYBODY), you have to regulate architecture that is inappropriate for some areas like historical parts of cities (YES but you have to permit a religios group doing no harm to anybody build their temple SOMEWHERE AND ALL THE PLACES WHERE ANY OTHER GROUP IS ALLOWED TO BUILD A TEMPLE SHOULD BE AVAILABLE FOR MUSLIMS, that’s freedom). Shame on Swiss xenophobes!

Flasher T said...

actually the Tashkent central mosque belongs to a very special style of Islamic architecture

Good evening, Mr. Backpedal. I showed you a major mosque without a minaret; live with it. Also, the fact that an instrument of Islamic propaganda is prevalent in countries where Islam is an established dominant force hardly proves any sort of point at all.

but if a man recites it with his unamplified voice I don't think it will be much of a problem.

That's not for you to decide though, it's for the people of Switzerland to decide, and they have.

Flasher T said...

Furthermore,

In the good old days before the advent of mics Muezzin and Muqri' (the man who recites quran) evolved as a vocal profession much comparable to opera singers in Europe and it was really beautiful

I'm sure this is true, and as the people of Cairo have chosen to incorporate the Muezzin vocal art within their culture, they are entirely within their right, and I do not see it as a breach of freedom of religion directed at Christians, Jews or atheists. However, this is a conscious decision on the part of Cairo residents.

A democratic society may choose to recognize an intrusive factor as a part of its cultural legacy, and decide to allow it - certainly a healthy secular society should be capable of treating a Muezzin call or a church choir as art. But this is purely voluntary. It does not mean that society cannot resist the imposition of a culturally alien equivalent. Wholesale cultural imposition, and particularly ideological imposition, is an immeasurably greater breach of human rights than forcing Swiss Muslims to get their prayer calls by SMS.

Homo sapiens said...

not worth commenting, if I sing a choir on the street I'mnot imposing Christianity on you. It's a long struggle that we Humanists have to face before every culture stops offending minorities of other cultures, but we have time and good will on our side.

Julien Frisch said...

Flasher_T,

I've left a longish comment on your blog.

Hicham Maged said...

Julien,

I am not as surprised by the voting as by the results. It was not about the minarets themselves but the meaning behind them and I agree with your input generally and the P.S. about democracy particullary.

I've also commented on this issue couple of days ago over my blog and welcome you to read it.

Andreas said...

Since Flasher T has a blog that violates the right to free expression for anyone who does not have a Blogger Account or an Open ID, I post a comment here that was originally intended to be located there.

"You are entitled to your opinion as anyone else but let me suggest—even though I have the impression it may be pointless—that you check and verify a few facts first before continuing to tell the world and its wide web that this is not an issue of human rights and whatever else you have been trying to impose by using killer arguments postulating things as facts that are your opinion much rather than undisputable facts.

Two things to begin with that may have informed your opinion better: First, Islam is a religion - Islamism is an ideeology arguing that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. Making that distinction is generally important, but even more so in the case of Switzerland: among the 4% of the population which are Muslim—adherents of the religion Islam, not the ideology Islamism—(and only a fraction of the Muslims living in Switzerland are practicing the religion) there are hardly any extremists believing in and avocating for Islamism. Second, none of the four minarettes currently existing in Switzerland has a muezzin - that was part of the agreement for each of them right from the start."

Cachumba said...

Good point Andreas! Excelent. But I'm just realizing this Flasher_t is hopelessly stubburn and will never aknowledge the simple and universal principles we are trying to explain to him. He's either too simple minded or to proud of himself and his obviously wrong arguments. People like him made possible such a result in Switzerland,really simple minded, incredible.