Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Passive Muslims should take some blame for Swiss minaret ban

What does Europe want from the Muslim community?

Well, you got me.

Like a party host who complains that her country cousins aren't mingling with the guests, and then seats them at the children's table at dinnertime, Switzerland, Denmark and France can't make up their mind about the so-called "Muslim problem."

The French want to ban the burka. Danish newspapers like to poke sticks at Muslims by publishing offensive cartoons. Now, 57 percent of Switzerland's voters have passed a referendum to ban the construction of minarets on mosques. Yet some European government officials complain, "Why don't Muslims assimilate into our society?"

And I ask: "Why would I want to?"

For all the phony talk about Muslim assimilation into white European Christian society, some EU countries do their best to marginalize us. In Switzerland, about 6 percent of the population is Muslim, a great many who are war refugees from Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I agree that it's likely that these first-generation Muslims have difficulty assimilating into European society, but that's true of first-generation immigrants in any country throughout history. Their offspring, however, are a different story. In 20 years time we'll see many second-generation Eastern European Muslims fit right into Swiss society. That is as long as the government resists the temptation to pass discriminatory laws against their right to worship and practice their cultural customs and traditions like everyone else.

There are two troubling aspects of the minaret ban. There is little of the Islamic extremist ideology found in Switzerland that would prompt such discrimination. And the country's constitution essentially prohibits anti-religious laws.

Unlike France and Denmark, there has been little talk of the "Islamification" of Switzerland. There are few burka-clad, dark-skinned Asian Muslim women walking the streets of Geneva and Zurich. Aside from the occasional web rants of extremists, there are no calls for Shariah to replace Swiss laws. There are about 150 mosques in Switzerland, most of which are no more than large prayer rooms. There are no calls for prayer over loudspeakers. Only four mosques have minarets.

So where do these anti-Muslim sentiments come from? I blame the ultra-right wing Swiss People's Party, the junior version of the British National Party and the Dutch Party for Freedom. The Swiss People's Party's clever ad campaign for the referendum featured an advertisement of a scowling burka-clad woman next to sprouting black minarets atop the Swiss flag. It's a compelling image that plays on the fears of the Swiss.

But I also blame European Muslims who allow extremist websites to present a skewed image of Islam. Imams, Islamic scholars, Muslim journalists and social workers do so little to stem the tide of public opinion. European Muslims need to shed their reticence to defend themselves by countering claims of the Islamification of Europe.

A case in point is the October appearance of BNP's Nick Griffin on the BBC's Question Time. Griffin's odious anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim positions were exposed by Muslim and Christian participants on the television show. The exposure demonstrated that BNP's policies were not based on facts and logic, but on hate.

Switzerland's Muslims can remain silent and continue to be marginalized or they can involve themselves in government policy and through the media to shape their future. Frankly, I'm a little weary of the namby-pamby "let's not rock the boat" attitude of Muslims. It didn't work for Jews in the 1930s and I don't think it's going to work for Muslims today.

The other uncomfortable aspect of the referendum is that it flies in the face of Switzerland's constitution. The constitution bans discrimination against persons on the "grounds of origin, race, gender, age, language, social position, way of life, religious, ideological, or political convictions, or because of a physical, mental or psychological disability."

Swizz government leaders have indicated they have no choice but to pass the referendum into law. But I sense that the referendum can be challenged on constitutional grounds. It also should be noted that although a clear majority of Swiss voters want the referendum to be the law of the land, it doesn't mean it's a good law. There's no question that a massive mosque with minarets will look out of place in a neighborhood surrounded by 17th century architecture. But that's a zoning issue decided at the local level.

And that's precisely the reason why this is a referendum that discriminates against one specific religion. The design and construction of a mosque or any building is a decision best left to local districts. By taking the decision out of the hands of local officials and declaring that minarets - not cathedrals or synagogues - should be banned throughout the country changes the issue from one simply of architecture to one of religion.

Switzerland has enjoyed a global reputation as a nation of tolerance and a safe haven for the oppressed. That reputation was rocked in the mid-1990s when it was revealed that Switzerland's banking industry colluded with Nazi Germany to plunder accounts of depositors in occupied countries during World War II. Swiss banks also refused to release the account funds of Holocaust survivors after the war. The controversy greatly upset the Swiss who saw their reputation as a tolerant country impugned.

The Swiss are now facing a new but similar test. Do they join the ranks of Denmark and France in allowing right-wing political groups manipulate its citizens' emotions with unsubstantiated rhetoric? Or do they take the right path by embracing all religions and cultures of people who seek a fair shake when they cross into their borders?


Chiara said...

Thank you for addressing this topic, which seems to have gone unremarked upon, and for doing it so well.

My understanding is that the Swiss far right has been making inroads by an increasingly anti-immigrant platform and this is a highlight of their influence. They remind me of the far right French party Le Front National which made similar inroads, gained about 20% of the vote in France, and in France for the European Parliament, and then had a serious run at the Presidency.

It is particularly frightening that this should happen in Switzerland and by referendum against a group which is largely invisible ie European, blends in, and no extremists or overt issues.

On the other hand, Switzerland is a police state, with police records of general information on all its citizens, a history of "guest workers" rather then immigrants, and differential car licence plates for residents rather than citizens.

It is peaceable in international affairs, and has legislated collaboration amongst its language groups with cantonal autonomy, but highly controlled within.

Anonymous said...

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mohamed hassan

Anonymous said...

Hello Sabria. First off, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to write this blog. You are an excellent writer, and although I might not agree with all you say I do appreciate the opportunity to read about the unfiltered thoughts and ideas of a person from a from a far away part of the world. It is totally understandable that you would be upset by such discriminatory legislation, but I am curious if you think it is a bit hypocritical for Middle Eastern Muslims to loudly condemn the minaret ban (not a mosque ban) when they either do not allow or put up obstacles to the building of non-Islamic places for worship in their own countries. Most of the rioters in France were the children of immigrants, so I think it is no certainty that in 20 years time we'll see many second-generation Muslims fitting right into Swiss society. I do realize that the Swiss Muslims are from Eastern European countries rather than North Africa and the French DO discriminate against these children of immigrants so the situations are not exactly the same. In my opinion it is also a stretch to say the Muslims are like the Jews from the 1930s. There are no internment camps, they have not had their property seized, and they are not forced to live in ghettos or wear armbands signifying their religion. Your opinion on moderate Muslims not speaking up did hit a chord and as someone from the 'West' (U.S.)it makes me wonder if the moderate Muslims agree to some degree with extremists when they fail to speak up against violence or against claims that Muslims won't stop until they make the whole world an Islamic emirate. Thanks again for writing this blog and for allowing me the opportunity to speak my mind.



Sandy said...

When religious freedom is practiced in Saudi Arabia and people can be Christian and build churches if they please- then Muslims can complain.

When women can choose- or not- to where Hijab in Saudi Arabia, then they can complain about Hijab bans.

We need to clean up our own messes first. And set a tolerant example first- or we just look like hypocrits.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Sabria for this article. I love reading your blog! However, I do not agree with your statement "white European Christian society, some EU countries do their best to marginalize us". Having "Christian" European background myself I can assure you that you can barely find a person in Europe who considers himself/herself as a true Christian and who actually truly believes in God. Many leading sincere priests already declared for a long time that Europe is a pagan society with tremendous love for Darwinism, materialism and ancient paganism. Europeans have destroyed Christianity and its values more than 100 years ago thus what we have today is not a Christian-Islamic clash but rather an attempt to destroy all world monotheistic religions including Islam. They were pretty successful with Judaism and Christianity so far. Now it is turn for Islam.

Anonymous said...

Sandy, do not mix oranges with apples. Saudi Arabia never declared that it is a democratic country whereas Switzerland did and still does today. Thus there is a legitimate reason to protest.
Also, I would like to remind you that Saudi Arabia does not represent the whole Islamic World. There are plenty of Muslim countries where there are thousands of churches. In Egypt alone, there are at least 10 millions of Christians living side by side with Muslims for centuries. In fact, historically Muslims can show far more better example of tolerance than the Western World.
As for the mess in Saudi Arabia it will not be sorted if women take off their clothes in fact it will bring even more corruption. This mess is due to political, economical and social corruption. People are intolerant and unjust to themselves. So, churches won't help here, please no offence.
I do not understand the argument with churches in the Middle East. First of all because there are plenty of churches in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt etc. Secondly, in "Christian" Europe churches get empty more and more with every day and some eventually get converted to mosques, bars, flats because of this. Why do you want to build them more in Muslim countries? Make them full in Christian countries first. Seriously, this is a joke.

Sandy said...

No, this is not a joke. But apparently you felt threatened by what I wrote and resorted to making fun of it- rather than keeping to respectful disagreement.

Muslims citizens of Switzerland have every right to complain. Saudi citizens do not. I never claimed I "wanted" to build churches in Saudi Arabia. But if there was freedom of religion here- there would be churches. And I never claimed Saudi's issues would be solved by "taking off their clothes". I did say Saudi's shouldn't complain about dress codes in other countries when they have one themselves. And of course the issue isn't so much about clothes and churches, but lack of oppression and people being able to live as though there truly were "no compulsion in religion".

And you are absolutely correct. Saudi is not democratic, nor does it claim to be. It claims to be Islamic, but is actually a patriarchal/monarchacal/tribal society.

Emanuele De Lorenzi said...

What you wrote looks like the Swiss are the bad people, but a hell?!? I quite sure if there is the same referendum in Saudi Arabia regarding build more church I wonder how many Saudi will vote "Yes" and how many "No". You got my point, Swizterland is a Catolic country you cannot change that. Second, if an European country votes or does something about Muslim everybody are against them, what about you guys in Middle East?! You don't even care about Catolic people so what we have to say?!

Don't get me wrong now, I have a family in Middle East, and also in Tunisia, muslim too, I don't want you to think I am against muslim or middle east but that article really made me mad. The italian name I have is due to Italian origin.

With best regards,

Ramzi said...

reference your article " what does Europe want from us " , it surfaced on new page 5 for change though I agree fully with most of your outstanding points of view , but let me point out some differences ...

First , ask why Turkey is still unaccepted full country partner in Europe , BinLaden & Qaheda has nothing to do with this long pending delay ?

Second , why there is no church in Saudi Arabia for more than one hundred or 0ne million expatraite ?

I do agree ban on Manaret is ridicilious since it can be Architectural beauty like what we did in Spain , the locality can ask for impressive look for mosque as well to ensure ISO 9001/14000 or any international standard for beauty , environmental cleanilness and general beaviour ..

But I do agree that loud speakers should not be allowed anymore with our built in watches / alerts / reminders , true dedicated believer does not need PVPV nor Azan though it is beautiful in other Islamic countries with nice voices ; but not here in Saudi ; by that we don't disturb others 5 times daily where church bell is for one time Sunday ... so this is the only valid argument for Westerns about HI loudspeakers .

Similarly Hijab & Abiyadh should not take this severe & serious attention , it is just model of dressing , free to individual but not to force on others .

Abu Yusuf said...

I think the problem with your comments Sabria is that they focus on surface level issues and ignore more epistemic concerns. There are a number of factors at play in the Swiss decision. It would take a lengthy post that you are probably unlikely to read to discuss these but one comment that is worth making is that the Muslim community in the UK and Europe lacks intellectual representation by traditional Islamic scholars able to correctly understand the philosophical underpinnings of Western society, modernity and post-modernism such that they could chart a course through these troubled waters. The result is surface level analysis that typifies Muslim discourse. A discourse lacking in real depth and is built on shallow clich├ęs.

Chiara said...

Abu Yusuf--I for one would be interested in your sharing more of your analysis of this. I am sufficiently versed in modernity and post-modernism, which I write about in other contexts that I would hope to follow and learn from your thoughts.

Eva said...

Mariaini wrote:"I can assure you that you can barely find a person in Europe who considers himself/herself as a true Christian and who actually truly believes in God."

That is a gross overstatement. Facts and statistics? Any? Or just a wishful thinking now that you have switched allegiance?

The Swiss referendum has a lot to do with Erdogan's slogan "Our minarets will be our bayonets."
No sane people want to import bayonets, whatever their architectural merits. Had the islamist rhetoric been less immoderate over the years, there would have been no problem.

Yes, the moderate muslims are to be blamed for their lack of visibility. Their feeble protests are drowned by the drum-beating of radical Islam.

And how about reciprocity? Why do Christian priests in Turkey require police protection because they get murdered? Why are young Christian women in Egypt kidnapped, forced into a marriage with muslims and into conversion to Islam? Where are the once-thriving Christian and Jewish communities in Alexandria? Why are there regular anti-Christian riots in Egypt, Pakistan and elsewhere? Why is a conversion to Christianity punishable by death or at least by family rejection and social ostracism?

How does that compare with the interdiction of minarets?

There is an endless litany of grievances and the blame is on us (Christians or atheists) for not addressing the issues as loudly as they should be. Instead, what he hear daily, are muslim sob stories of intolerance. That intolerance has never reached murder (i.e. Theo van Gogh) and death fatwas inssued against critics of Islam. If that is not a matter for reflection, I don't know what is.

DrMaxtor said...

Nice post.

You're an uninformed idiot and racist. Your arguments are filled with more holes then Swiss cheese. What do Muslims in Switzerland have to do with Saudi Arabia(a puppet client regime of the US and UK)? NOTHING! Most Muslims aren't Saudis, only a moron would insist on "guilt by association" when addressing 1.6 billion people.
Should the rights of Christian minorities be weighed against the absense of any mosques at the Vatican? The fact of the matter is that the Islamic world boasts of more Churches then all of Europe and America.
European paranoia and racism is nothing new, racism, xenophobia is chic and mainstream. If thats the sort of adverserial "relationship" they want with Muslims, then don't whine and moan when they rightfully reject "integrating" into a society of petty, mean spirited racist neanderthals who insist on marginalizing them.

I'll posting on this inferior hypocritical culture on my blog in the near future.

Sandy said...

@Dr. Maxtor
Who am I racist against exactly? Muslims in all countries share a faith. I only differentiated that those that live in Switzerland have every right to complain about this law.

I never said most Muslims are Saudi-nor did I insist on "guilt by association" for anyone. so you might want to work on your reading comprehension. You seem to be either responding to something I didn't write, or too busy foaming at the mouth to write a coherent response.

minka said...

I was having a discussion with an Muslim living in the west (on a blog) and I wrote that one of the things that made westerners uneasy about Islamic influences in their own societies was oppression of women and how that comes into western societies via Islam.

He responded that all societies were oppressive to women and it was Islamophobic to single out Islam.

I responded with a quote from a British paper that said honor crimes in the UK had soared 40 to 60 per cent, and was studded with quotes from Muslim women that this had to do with rising fundamentalism etc - and he didn't reply. In fact he censored my post.


This sort of thing makes me very uneasy. As a woman in the west, I don't want cultural influences coming into my culture that dilute or disrupt our very hard won freedoms. And I don't see willingness to discuss this real issue on the part of even liberal Muslims.

I think if Muslims want to be in the west, they need to accept western freedoms for women. That means, their daughters are free to live how they choose - parents cannot choose their husbands, they cannot enforce virginity, etc. That means, no polygamy. No sharia in western democracies, period. Etc.

I think Muslims ascribe western discomfort with Islam solely to racism and prejudice, and I don't want to deny that that is an element. But Islam is also a threat to liberal values, especially freedom for women. I have seen many muslims resist this idea. They think this is an issue that their community must work with independently, in its own time. But that is not true, if their community is in the west.

I also have another concern. That is, who is the victim here. I am concerned that the girls who are oppressed in muslim communities in the west need to have their freedoms upheld. If their own muslim community won't do it, the outside (western) world of law, custom, education, and social services must step into the breech forcefully.

Sorry this is so long.

Anonymous said...

"The DDPA recognizes that victims often suffer from multiple or aggravated forms of discrimination based on sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, social origin, property, birth or other status. It highlights the gender dimension of racial discrimination and attributes a key role to women in the development of programmes to combat racism and intolerance." This is a quote from the UN conference review on racism held in Geneva during April 2009.

I believe that the Swiss made these rulings as a prevetative measure to ensure Muslems not becoming victims of racism. It was never intended to de-grade Muslims but to protect them.

Perhaps Dr. Maxtor, some thoughts before insults would be the wiser call of action.

Have the Arab countries signed the decleration to combat racism??

Jay Kactuz said...

The minaret issue cannot be separated from the "what does Europe want from us" question. These of course cannot be discussed without considering the future of Europe and even the rest of the world.

I believe the future will not be nice, for many reasons. One of these is a religion called Islam. I believe that Islam is an affront to basic human values of equality, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and separation of religion and state. This can easily be confirmed by history, Islamic scriptures and the situation of Islamic societies today.

I believe that Muslims cannot coexist with other peoples. I believe the burden of change rests mostly on Muslims.

I can't speak for others, but I can say what one old man wants from you (Muslims).

1. I want Muslims to treat others like they want to be treated. This is called the “Golden rule”. This means that the legal and social discrimination against non-Muslims must stop. It means that all apostasy laws must be repealed. It means that the media, schools and Imams that preach hate against non-Muslims must end.
2. I want Muslims to stop discrimination against women and other groups. I want an end to forced marriages, honor killings and female genital mutilation.
3. I want freedom of speech and intellectual freedom. People must discuss certain issues relating to Islam that Muslims prefer not to think about. I am talking about verses in the Quran that are offensive to non-Muslims and also about the many brutal, wicked actions done by Mohammad. If you don’t think these exist, you are ignorant. If you think these are not important, you are not serious about coexistence. In fact, I want to see some honest discussion about these on Muslim websites.
4. I want Muslims to stop blaming others for all their problems. OK, you can blame some of them on us, but we don’t stay awake at night just planning how to make Muslims miserable. You do that well without our help.
5. I want an end to censorship and repression in the Muslim world. against those who speak out on political and/or religious issues. Free all those jailed for those opinions.

That’s it. Not a bad list.

PS: Gosh, that Chiara is everywhere! What does she do, sleep next to the computer? Eat on her keyboard?

DrMaxtor said...

You're trying too hard at damage control. The Swiss minaret ban is not an isolated isolated incident. it's the latest in a bunch of racist attacks and provocations against the Muslim community within the framework of the "war on terror." It is our business if you target our brothers and sisters anywhere, anytime.
Work on your comprehension skills and pick up a history book sometime.

You're obviously high on something. Protecting Muslims? Really, that's not what the anti-Muslim posters of black sheep being kicked out my white sheep show, nor is the blatantly racist rubbish coming out of the filthy, inbred, backsides of Europe's neo-Nazis. Don't insult my intelligence you bumbling buffoon of a bigot.
There's a big difference between paying lip service and really doing something about racism, so your little "declarations" mean nothing.Just like the Geneva Conventions, International Law and a host of other rarely applied "declarations."
Nice attempt at a foolish distraction though.

Sandy said...

Dr. Maxtor- your a ranting zealot with an ego to match. You think you are capable of judging everyone and everything. But you are an angry ranter as your website, unsuprisingly, clearly shows.

Rant away- call me names, others names, judge who is right and who is wrong, assess everyone's mental capabilities and spew it on out there. Say you're doing it in the name of Islam- why not? It's a convenient excuse for your very poor adab. And "no thank you" for my share of your defense of your Muslim brothers and sisters.

Anonymous said...

@dr Maxdor,
I don't have to insult your intelligence or to insult you for that matter. I can make my point without having to steep to such low levels. I am a civilised person that was brought up to respect others like I would like to be respected. What you don't seem to understand is that not everybody in the world is anti-islam or even anti-muslim. To see posters like that and to read the pain in your words does effect people in Europe. Neo-Nazi'ism was and is not acceptable. Not in Europe and neither any where else in the world. Is it so hard for you to accept that people might acctually be reaching out to you and want muslims to integrate in their societies? Remember these words:"He who fights with monsters, must be carefull lest he becomes a monster himself".

DrMaxtor said...

You're projecting yet again to cover up your tracks. This is nothing new as anti-islamic fanatics are not used to having their retarded view forcefully refuted and rubbished back to the garbage bin.
And really, talk of adab, coming from a people, a bunch of wild eyed bigots obsessed with their skin color...that's comedy.


Nice try but no cigar. If you think passing discriminative and racist laws is "reaching out," keep dreaming. As for neo-nazis, they are all the rage in Europe with dozens of parties adopting their platform against anyone who isn't a "European" in their view.
There will be no integration with Nazis and Fascists.

Read it and weep :

DrMaxtor said...

@"jay kactuz"

For those who may not know, "Jay kactuz" is a white American anti-Islamic racist extremist banned from numerous websites, including the very liberal Altmuslim. he fancies himself as a "crusader" and advocates the genocide(supports the invasion of Iraq for example) of Muslims(he is an Evangelical Christian) hoping to jump start Armageddon to speed up the return of Christ(a.s.). Too bad he hasn't figured out that when Christ(a.s.) does return, it'll be bad news for ziofascist fanatics like him.
Of course all his "points" are nonsense which have been refuted numerous time over yet like the retarded idiot that he is...he resorts to the old Hitlerian tactic of repeating a lie over and over again as if it will be accepted as truth.
He knows full well who runs all the dictatorships in the Muslim world and yet pretends as if they are sovereign independent entities and not the western puppet client regimes that they truly are. His disingenuous demands for "free speech" are betrayed by the fact that he supports the suppression of free speech criticizing Uncle Sam and his beloved "israel".
"PS: Gosh, that Chiara is everywhere! What does she do, sleep next to the computer? Eat on her keyboard?"

This laughable statement applies to you far more as all you do spend all your time online with your flea bitten conspiracy theories about Muslims. Get back to us when you find those Iraqi WMDs.

I would urge the webmaster to delete and ban this cretin.

Sandy said...

@Drmaxtor, anyone reading this can see you've refuted nothing I've actually said. In fact, it's like you've read nothing I've said, and have no idea of anything about me at all.

And regarding "talk of adab, coming from a people, a bunch of wild eyed bigots obsessed with their skin color..."

I'm the one who brought up your poor adab. What does this have to do with what you said above? You are really all over the place.

And again...who am I racist against? You keep making claims about me- please elaborate and support them.