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Old 12-04-2009, 07:57 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Minaret Ban in Switzerland - why did it happen and what does it stir up?

I was under the impression that the topic of the Swiss Minaret Ban had already been discussed here but I couldn't find the thread - it appears there isn't one? Let me know if I'm wrong.

So last Sunday the Swiss voted on a referendum on whether to add something to their constitution or not. Basically it would be an amendment to Article 72 of their constitution that reads something like "The construction of minarets is forbidden".

I only heard about it on Monday once the votes had been cast and to most everyone's surprise this ban on the construction of minarets in Switzerland passed, by a staggering margin.

There are several arguments for and against the ban but even before I had heard any I knew that this was seriously screwed up.

Here is an article that contains some information on why this referendum came about:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Harvard Law Record
Switzerland's minaret ban about more than xenophobia   click to show 


Link to article
I have read a few other articles on the topic and though I can see that there are a few valid reasons on why the Swiss might have approved this, it is interesting how such a high percentage of the population and number of counties voted for the minaret ban.

I think this is an interesting if delicate topic, that is not as clear cut as it may appear.

The claim by many of the proponents of the ban is that minarets are of 'no religious significance'. Which seems odd because clearly they are. Even so, with this ban mosques can still be built, just not with minarets. They also claim that minarets are 'symbols of a religious-political claim to power and dominance which threatens – in the name of alleged freedom of religion – the constitutional rights of others'. Which is exaggerated to me, but I can see what their fears are through this statement.

One thing that stands out to me, in many of these articles, is when they point out, well how about if this was inverted? How about the freedom of other religions in Muslim countries? I don't purport to know that much about it, so if anyone would like to tell me more about this I'm interested.

I think this could make for a good discussion so I decided a thread was in order. I will try to bring more to the table further on in the discussion, no need to say everything in the OP.

By the way, since this obviously a sensitive issue, please keep the discussion civil and on-topic.
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Old 12-04-2009, 08:26 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I had no idea what a minaret was, or to what aim they are constructed, and given merit.



To me, they seem to be akin to an Egyptian obelisk, just a visual cue to something of inherent (to extreme) importance. From what I glanced from wiki, that is their exact function: to provide a vantage point from which the call to prayer (adhan) is made. I suppose I can see why they are not totally relevant, as their basic use and being is to call attention to a mosque. They could also be compared to Christian belltowers, I suppose, as those are used to attract your senses, both visual and optical, to welcome followers to the nearby Church.

I have no stance on the ban. Let me read the article, but so long as they are not imposing any restrictions to the operation of mosques, I only see this as a "neighborhood compliance - visual distraction" debate.
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Old 12-04-2009, 08:35 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Uh, wow. I had not heard about this (campaign mode = bubble mode). Can someone explain why in the world one would want to ban minarets, if not some form of xenophobia? Jetée: if they were making a ban that did not target a specific religion's specific structure, I'd understand that viewpoint. They are not banning church steeples though. This is not about height, preserving the skyline, or any other sort of architectural preservation. I'd love to hear someone make an argument in favor of this ban that has nothing to do with targeting a specific religious group.

Not to mention, they needed a constitutional amendment for this?
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Old 12-04-2009, 08:38 AM   #4 (permalink)
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If this has nothing to do with building codes, practices, and safety, I cannot see how it is anything other than xenophobia or anti-Muslim.

Minarets are beautiful. Such a shame. I'm glad I don't have a Swiss bank account.
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Old 12-04-2009, 08:42 AM   #5 (permalink)
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jetee once you read the arguments for the ban you will relaise that its not about neighbourhood visual compliance.

these days, minarets arent used as often as before because technology has taken over with the call to prayer. whereas before it required someone to go up there and make the call, these days there are automated calls to prayer on loudspeakers atop of minarets.

that being said they are still used by some mosques.

under islamic jurispudence, with or without a minaret, the call to prayer needs to be made though and is an obligation on the mosque or congregation before the start of the prayer
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Old 12-04-2009, 09:29 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlish View Post
jetee once you read the arguments for the ban you will relaise that its not about neighbourhood visual compliance.

these days, minarets arent used as often as before because technology has taken over with the call to prayer. whereas before it required someone to go up there and make the call, these days there are automated calls to prayer on loudspeakers atop of minarets.

that being said they are still used by some mosques.

under islamic jurispudence, with or without a minaret, the call to prayer needs to be made though and is an obligation on the mosque or congregation before the start of the prayer
Yeah, I understand that now. I still don't see the need for the amendment, but to be pragmatic, minarets do not need to be used by mosques either, as you pointed out as well. They were constructed as a decoration/tower of attention, but they don't seem to be essential in any nation/area where Islam is practiced.

If you don't need either of the two things, why seek to inhibit them anyway? I still see this as a "land/property-based" discussion because my mind can't wrap it around any other way; xenophobia, not ready to go there, but if one was just to read the overview and synopsis of what is being called at stake here, it is easy enough to suppose.

In my opinion, this should be one of those "just let it stand" topics. If there are minarets in Switzerland, do they demolish them? Or is this a ban on the construction of any new ones?
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Old 12-04-2009, 09:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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BBC News - Vatican and Muslims condemn Swiss minaret ban vote

BBC news article on the reactions across the world

ill write a bit later on the muslim reaction here
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Old 12-04-2009, 09:42 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Ah, here's the paragraph that answers it: "The four minarets that currently exist in Switzerland are not affected by the vote, nor are the approximately 400,000 Muslims living in Switzerland restricted in any way from practicing their faith in their places of worship. That being said, this formalistic approach to the scope of the initiative fails to reflect the symbolic power of the message sent by a majority of Swiss voters this Sunday."

Again, it's subject to the whim and desires of the Swiss population, and the article does mention another instance in which a new Catholic diocese in the making was subject and in-waiting of an approval via the Swedish government. I bring this up (not only because it was in the article) but because this is what I think is more at heart to what I'd be voting. I don't think it's intolerant, but for a lack of how to properly state it, it's more of a formality of how and to what means the congregation is given birth; a "classification" of sorts.

It seems politics and fear abroad of some doings elsewhere brought this forth, or at least that's what I understand of why this vote has been called for (the sixth paragraph in the article mentions it... so does the headline on CNN.com on Dec. 2nd).
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Old 12-04-2009, 12:49 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Pfft, I thought Minarets were those string puppet things. I as going to say ABOUT TIME! Those things are evil!

I don't really get this ban. I guess it's what happens when you give the public a vote. While I don't think they made the right decision, I like that they have no one the blame except themselves. They can't blame the government because it was the public vote that caused the ban. Even seeing that it can go wrong, It still sounds like a good system to me.
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Old 12-04-2009, 01:12 PM   #10 (permalink)
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This highlights one of the true dichotomies of the modern world... the difference between democratic and constitutional rule.

Western democratic governments are assumed to be open and welcoming. This is not because of any particular characteristic of those countries... rather it has been forced on them by the realities of international relations. This is not a bad thing (necessarily), but reflects that the national governments MUST look beyond their own borders, and seek alliances where they can (be they economic, military, cultural, or spiritual). It does not mean, however, that the population of the country subscribes to the government's position.

In a pure democracy (with no constitutional limitations), and Switzerland perhaps is the closest country in the world to that concept, laws can be decided on the basis of the true desire of the people. This is not a bad thing (necessarily), but it will often emphasize something that few western people seem to realise:

THERE IS NOTHING INHERENTLY NICE ABOUT DEMOCRACY!!

This is the role of the constitution... to effectively put the brakes on the unfettered will of the people.

BTW... the vote was 57.5% of the people in favour. While depressingly high, I don't see that as an overwhelming majority in any way.
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Old 12-04-2009, 01:44 PM   #11 (permalink)
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GreyWolf: that is exactly why it saddens me that so many Americans 1) don't realize we're a constitutional republic, not a democracy, or 2) don't understand why that's a good thing.
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Old 12-04-2009, 02:05 PM   #12 (permalink)
 
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the agitation for this originated with a far right political organization, the Egerkinger Kommittee, which used some pretty effective graphic design that did not prominently tie the posters to a particular organization to agitate for the referendum.

there's a pretty good summary of all this stuff here, along with a couple examples of the posters:

Minaret controversy in Switzerland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

this sense of a white christian europe that's been invaded by the Other is a dominant theme in far right/neo-fascist politics. it has obvious correlates in the united states, but here the category neo-fascist doesn't get bandied about (one result is that political viewpoints that would be circumscribed in their appeal were they publicly labelled neo-fascist circulate unmarked)...

it's a bit strange, this referendum.

the depressing thing is that it points to something that one would hope wasn't the case, but which appears to be so: these themes of being-invaded resonate beyond the limits of the electorates who turn out for far right/neo-fascist organizations/parties. 57.5% is a bleak number to have voted for this nonsense.

it's clear enough what this is about as well: controlling how properties are built in this particular way is a device for splitting the Other away from the white christian commonwealth, subjecting them to particular restrictions which follow from this basically paranoid general impression that They are Taking Over (have a look at the poster on the left in the wikipedia article. i don't see how else to read the image of switzerland that's entirely dominated with images of minarets that are done to resemble missles). so it's a symbolic victory for neo-fascists. go switzerland.
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Old 12-04-2009, 05:16 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reese View Post
I don't really get this ban. I guess it's what happens when you give the public a vote. While I don't think they made the right decision, I like that they have no one the blame except themselves. They can't blame the government because it was the public vote that caused the ban. Even seeing that it can go wrong, It still sounds like a good system to me.
What a wonderful system it is that puts civil rights up to a simple majority vote. The Swiss have consistently demonstrated the extreme xenophobia of their culture and this is just one more way for them to show foreigners that they're not welcome.
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Old 12-04-2009, 08:37 PM   #14 (permalink)
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As I was reading little tippler's post, I found myself wondering "What's a minaret, and what do the Swiss have against them?" Mrs. O'Right's (a Swiss, by the way) knew what a minaret was, but had no idea why "her people" have an aversion to them. So, while I still have no idea why the Swiss dislike minarets, at least I now know what one is.
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Old 12-04-2009, 09:13 PM   #15 (permalink)
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ok, for the purpose of filling the rest of the members in..

these tall structures are called minarets. mosques typically have between 1 and 4 minarets usually.

This is the blue mosque in istanbul, Turkey

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Old 12-05-2009, 07:03 AM   #16 (permalink)
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This is a very worrying assault on religion, carried out by a virtually pirate state which cowers behind an illusion of "neutrality" to cover up their role as the worlds money launderers.

But more than this, it is a quite scary example of mob rule. I wouldnt want to be a Muslim living in Switzerland today. I wonder what laws will be next? Forbidding Muslim schools, then the mosque itself is banned, then business ownership... how far would it go if unchecked, and what will check it?
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Old 12-05-2009, 07:26 AM   #17 (permalink)
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All of Europe seems afraid of Muslims these days. England with the bombings, France with the riots, Netherlands with Theo van Gogh getting murdered.

It seems that Switzerland wants to just start some shit.



That banner seems rather fucked up to me.
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Old 12-05-2009, 07:48 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Some of the victims of the 7/7 bombings were Muslims

The criminals involved in the attck dont respresent average Muslim lads anymore than the murders carried out by the IRA represent average Irish lads.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:07 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Strange Famous View Post
This is a very worrying assault on religion, carried out by a virtually pirate state which cowers behind an illusion of "neutrality" to cover up their role as the worlds money launderers.
Be careful not to mischaracterize Switzerland and what's at the bottom of this. The long history of the government's neutral position isn't much of a factor here, and neither is your opinion of Swiss banks and how foreigners abuse them. I see a problem with disparaging an entire nation based on its economic freedom. They are more than a bunch of banks, chocolatiers, and clockmakers. The issue here is the xenophobic impact on direct democracy, which I think is a toxic mix.

Quote:
But more than this, it is a quite scary example of mob rule. I wouldnt want to be a Muslim living in Switzerland today. I wonder what laws will be next? Forbidding Muslim schools, then the mosque itself is banned, then business ownership... how far would it go if unchecked, and what will check it?
Mob rule? Maybe. I'd like to call it the tyranny of the majority. It's not the first time it's happened. But as was mentioned above, that's what constitutions and bills are for: to prevent the majority from deciding on civil rights.

I don't think this will necessarily lead to a slippery slope of Islamophobia, as the world response to such matters in Switzerland would get heavier and graver with each step in that direction.

I think Switzerland needs to fix their political process.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:21 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Be careful not to mischaracterize Switzerland and what's at the bottom of this. They are more than a bunch of banks, chocolatiers, and clockmakers.
Quite true. I do, however, look forward each year, at Christmas time, when Mrs. O'Right's aunt sends us a big box of some kickass chocolate.

Yeah, I know, that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. But, I'm still waiting for that package to arrive.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:31 AM   #21 (permalink)
 
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maybe this will turn out to be one of those moments that marks the furthest reach of neo-fascist ideas for a while, kind of on the order of what happened to the front national once it got more than 5% in a round of presidential elections and found itself thereby in the second round of voting. it seemed like folk kinda woke up to the possibility that the front national was not simply some wacky fringe outfit, that something had to be done to name them as neo-fascist. in part because of that and in part because of organizational melt-down, the front national hasn't since gotten close.

so it may be here: the sentiment in those posters at least seems to have resonated with alot of people, most likely for a host of reasons. but once it passed, and once the criticisms started flying in from seemingly everywhere, the meanings get changed. maybe there will be a pulling back from this sort of nonsense.
out of embarrassment, out of recognition that such stuff could actually be implemented, etc.

that's maybe a bit pollyanna, but who knows.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:35 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Mob rule? Maybe. I'd like to call it the tyranny of the majority. It's not the first time it's happened. But as was mentioned above, that's what constitutions and bills are for: to prevent the majority from deciding on civil rights.

I don't think this will necessarily lead to a slippery slope of Islamophobia, as the world response to such matters in Switzerland would get heavier and graver with each step in that direction.

I think Switzerland needs to fix their political process.
Without looking in wikipedia I cant remember if it was JS Mill or his dad (or even Jeremy Bentham?) who coined the phrase... but of what matter

The tyranny majority is not much different to the rule of the mob, the rope around the neck of the lynched man... when the government forbids you to build a church how you like because you happen to be a Muslim, I expect you start to feel scared and hostile.

The Swiss had made a grave and dispicabl error. It is true that they perhaps they will be shocked by what they have done, and back off. Or perhaps not. No one who is sane would predict another Auschwitz, but the end point of this could be something like segragated America in the 40's.
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Old 12-05-2009, 10:44 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Quite true. I do, however, look forward each year, at Christmas time, when Mrs. O'Right's aunt sends us a big box of some kickass chocolate.

Yeah, I know, that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. But, I'm still waiting for that package to arrive.
Coincidentally, within about an hour of your post, my SO returned home from a crazy kitchen surplus sale and dropped over 1.5 pounds (I'm not exaggerating) of Swiss dark chocolate next to me here on my desk. She bought it for me because it was on sale, and "just because." I'm a big fan of Swiss dark chocolate, don't get me wrong.

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maybe this will turn out to be one of those moments that marks the furthest reach of neo-fascist ideas for a while [...]
I am tending to think that this will pass. To me this looks like a right-wing political group cherry-picking 100,000 signatures to get it to a vote, and then through some kind of hysteria and confusion it happens to pass. I can just imagine the sort of propaganda (beyond the posters) that these guys shovelled into even their most tenuous supporters.

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The tyranny majority is not much different to the rule of the mob, the rope around the neck of the lynched man... when the government forbids you to build a church how you like because you happen to be a Muslim, I expect you start to feel scared and hostile.
The distinct difference in my mind is that mob rule tends to be more amorphous in structure, whereas the tyranny of the majority actually has a process. At least the latter is easier targeted so it can be dealt with.
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Old 12-05-2009, 12:40 PM   #24 (permalink)
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All very easy to say when you arent in the firing line

(and of course, yes I like swiss chocolate)
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Old 12-05-2009, 07:44 PM   #25 (permalink)
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I have no problem with banning religious symbols or parts thereof as long as all religions are treated equally. So who's next in Switzerland? The Jews or the Catholics?
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Old 12-05-2009, 07:53 PM   #26 (permalink)
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I dont know why but for some reason I read the 1st word as "Muppets"

man, was I way off or what?
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Old 12-06-2009, 08:02 AM   #27 (permalink)
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All very easy to say when you arent in the firing line
I was not a Muslim, so I said nothing.

(if anyone tries to call Godwin's law on this I will personally track them down and punch them in the genitals.)
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Old 12-14-2009, 11:04 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Minarets and Call to Prayer

After reading through all the posts, I did not see that anyone mentioned the ban on Call to Prayer. Before the ban on the minarets, there was a ban placed on the Call to Prayer. For some reason, this does not get much attention. For those in Islamic dominated areas, there is the call to prayer. This is something normally not found outside those areas. Apparently, this Call to Prayer is broadcasted in the early mornings as part of the Mulsim religious practice. For non-Muslims, a 5:00am or 5:30am wake-up call from this practice is more of a public nuisance, then a religious practice. Generally, from what I understand, the Call to Prayer is broadcasted from minarets. See the connection?

While I think minarets are attractive structures, and the ones shown in this thread are just great, it appears the minarets are more of a political tool. You take the Call to Prayer away, well then we'll build minarets. After all, you have to wonder why the sudden interest in building them in 2005, when Muslims have been in Switzerland for decades.

But that's how I see it, and it's just my theory. Just find it odd, that the Call to Prayer thing has been so whitewashed.
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