Jewish leader says Swiss vote shows Europe's growing anti-Muslim views
Ban on minaret construction in Switzerland to raise tensions with Muslim world: analyst
Minaret ban 'a security risk' - Swiss minister
Minaret ban 'conflicts with human rights'
The Call from the Swiss Minaret
Pakistan raps Swiss minaret ban
Turkey says Swiss ban violates freedoms
Switzerland minaret ban condemned
Switzerland Faces 'Security Risk' after Voters Endorse Minaret Ban
Turkish president criticizes minaret vote in Switzerland
Iran condemns Swiss minaret ban
UN condemns Swiss minaret ban
Islam In Europe: Swiss Votes To Ban Minarets
Rightwing rejects parallel Muslim society
Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau
URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/muslims-and-islamophobia/swiss-compete-with-saudis-to-undermine-religious-freedom-/d/2180
Swiss Compete with Saudis to Undermine Religious Freedom
Dec 1, 2009
By Sheila Musaji
The Minaret Ban in Switzerland is one of those incidents that requires some time to process because there are so many threads to the story. Switzerland is the European country that anyone thinks of when they think of neutrality and tolerance. And, yet this is exactly the place where a ban just took place which shows a deep streak of racism towards, fear of, and willingness to discriminate against the 4.5% of the population that is Muslim.
Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country that has a terrible human rights record, is an absolute monarchy, and promotes a particularly rigid and extreme view of Islam that is repressive. In Saudia Arabia churches cannot be built, and it is even illegal to meet for Christian prayers or services. As a Muslim I am absolutely in disagreement with the Saudi position on this and many other issues, and openly state those views, as have many other Muslims. However, any reform movements in Saudi will be a long time coming as the royal family has the strong support of the U.S. government. And because of this no pressure is put on them to do something about their human rights and religious rights situation.
The Saudi situation is deplorable, and yet it seems that in the heart of Europe, the most enlightened country of Switzerland is ready to emulate the Saudi’s and turn its back on the enlightenment, on the best of modernity, and join the Saudi’s by taking the first step down a road leading to a return to a past in which minorities were treated barbarically culminating in the holocaust.
We don’t need minarets to practice Islam. There is no requirement that a mosque must have a minaret anymore than a church must have a steeple. But the banning of minarets in Switzerland is a human rights and religious freedom issue because it is specific to one religious community. Just as a minaret is a recognized symbol of a mosque, this vote to ban minarets is symbolic of a general state of mind. It sends a message to the Muslim community that they are not part of the society, that they are unwelcome aliens. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that prohibiting an architectural structure linked to Islam or any religion was “clearly discriminatory.” She said the ban was “discriminatory, deeply divisive and a thoroughly unfortunate step for Switzerland to take, and risks putting the country on a collision course with its international human rights obligations.” European Catholic and Protestant religious leaders have spoken out against the ban. The Federation of Swiss Jewish Communities (FSJC) clearly stated its opposition to the initiative before the vote and expressed its disappointment at the result. This is not the first time a Swiss popular vote has been used to promote religious intolerance. A century ago, a Swiss referendum banned Jewish ritual slaughter in an attempt to drive out its Jewish population. We share the FSJC’s stated concern that those who initiated the anti-minaret campaign could try to further erode religious freedom through similar means. As a great many Swiss and international legal experts have said, the ban is clearly inconsistent with Switzerland’s obligations under international law to respect the freedom of religion and not to discriminate on the grounds of religious belief. Even if the Swiss Federal Supreme Court does not reject the law, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg almost certainly will.
Why mention the Saudi’s and the Swiss together? Because the argument is commonly made that if Muslims want rights in western countries, then those same rights should be reciprocated in predominantly Muslim countries. Saudi Arabia and its denial of religious freedom is held up as an example. This really is not the point of any of this. If I am a citizen of a country like Switzerland, or the United States, or any other free, democratic country which stands for human and religious rights, then those rights apply to all, including myself - they apply to the majority and the minority. Those rights are what gives these countries whatever moral standing they have. “Civilization” (or the lack thereof) might well be measured by the extent that the ideals of human rights are applied to all within a given society. I cannot see that the solution to the lack of human rights in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else is to take away human rights in other countries where they now exist. That way leads only to the spread of darkness.
Here are the comments of some Muslim leaders and activists whose take on this situation is important. Links are provided so that you can read their articles in their entirety.
Aziz Poonawalla: “The irony of the ban is that it was sold as a means to prevent extremist Islam from taking root in Switzerland, but if anything actually increases that risk by sending a clear message to muslims that they are not welcome members of civic society. For its part, the Swiss muslim community has sought to downplay the vote, shunning interviews with foreign muslim media organizations and seeking to maintain a low profile. The challenge for them will be to weather the storm of increased Islamophobia that the racist campaign stoked and exploited - a burden that they would have borne regardless of the outcome of the vote. And they must now be extra vigilant that their own do not respond to this deliberate provocation by hardening their hearts against their nation and their fellow citizens. It’s easy to turn inwards and dwell in bitterness and humiliation, but it’s more important to look forward.”
Tariq Ramadan: “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 Islamise 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 colonised 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 colonising 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.”
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf “Religious freedom is essential for achieving peace. Right-wing Swiss populists are no more at fault than right-wing Muslims, who in recent years have become much more rigid in rejecting the free expression of religion in Muslim countries. Peace will come only when Westerners and Muslims alike understand that religious freedom and respect for human dignity are at the core of their spiritual beliefs.”
Yasir Qadhi: “The real threat that ‘Moozlem terrorists’ pose to the West, therefore, is not in the survival of its physical lands, but in the survival of its own values and freedoms that it has struggled so long to secure. In an attempt to stem an alleged ‘Islamization’ of Europe that would supposedly endanger European values and liberties, Europe appears ready to discard those very values and liberties. In the name of protecting freedom, Europe is prepared to lose it. Even as they create the imaginary monster of the ‘Islamist’, they fail to look in the mirror and see the monster that is themselves. How cherished and universal Western freedoms and values really are is a question that the West itself will have to answer. What happens to these values and freedoms in the next few years will be critical in the formulation of a new Western identity: one that will either be universal and inclusive, or selective and exclusive. And while Western Muslims would welcome being included in that identity, being so minuscule in number, they can only do so much to help in that conversation.”
ISNA Statement “The ban is a source of great concern for Western Muslims as they see European commitment to religious freedom and human rights unravel in the face of extremist threats on one side and extremist fear mongering on the other. The Swiss vote will undoubtedly invigorate the forces of intolerance worldwide and will give the wrong signals to countries struggling to build traditions of civil rights. The move will be also celebrated by extremist voices in Muslim societies, who will use the incident to drive a wedge between Muslim and Western countries. It will further complicate the task of European Muslims who are working to build bridges and promote tolerance and understanding, and will set back the efforts to develop tolerance and respect for religious freedom throughout the world. It is vital that Western democracies do not cave in to violent threats by religious extremism, and continue to serve as models for protecting religious freedom and civil rights. Their ability to integrate Muslim minorities and treat them with dignity will set a good example to people all over the world, including Muslim societies, to persevere in their pursuit of more open and inclusive societies. It is now the time for leading voices of freedom and tolerance in Switzerland and European democracies and the United States to challenge this discriminatory law. We also call on human rights organizations and religious groups, including European Muslims, to challenge the law in Swiss and European courts and make sure that this palpable discrimination against the free exercise of religion does not stand.”
Many Muslim governments have spoken out against the Swiss ban, but they are on really shaky moral ground unless they have absolute religious freedom within their own countries for their minorities. Speaking out against this issue without getting their own houses in order is simply hypocritical.
Shaikh Ali Gomaa an important religious scholar from Egypt’s Al Azhar University spoke against the Swiss ban and said: “This proposal...is not considered just an attack on freedom of beliefs, but also an attempt to insult the feelings of the Muslim community in and outside Switzerland,” Gomaa, the Egyptian government’s official interpreter of Islamic law, told the state-run news agency MENA. He encouraged Switzerland’s 400,000-strong Muslim community to use “dialogue” and legal means to contest the ban, which he described as “provocative behaviour.” I have searched, but cannot find that he has spoken strongly against the Saudi ban on churches, or on the prejudicial treatment of Christian Copts in his own country. Again, unless religious freedom and human rights are demanded and upheld for all, any possible moral ground is lost.
2 Dec 09
An official from the German Jewish Council warned on Wednesday that Switzerland’s vote to ban mosques with minarets was an expression of Europe's deep-seated aversion to Islam that was aggravating the integration of Muslims.
* Stretcher-bound Nazi guard Demjanjuk tried - National (30 Nov 09)
* Swiss minaret ban sparks heated German debate - Society (30 Nov 09)
* Germany home to 90 combat Islamists: report - Society (28 Nov 09)
The council's general secretary, Stephan Kramer, said that the referendum in the Alpine country on Sunday could be “neither euphemised nor re-interpreted.”
He said across Europe one could assume with “relative certainty that not a single country that doesn’t have more or less similar fears of Muslims and would have similar results in the same referendum.”
Kramer encouraged a more open discussion about how such a referendum on basic rights could even come to a popular vote.
“Those who want integration instead of assimilation, and really means it, must create a climate of mutual respect, acknowledgement and trust,” he said.
Ideas such as the “integration contracts” like the one proposed by Germany’s integration commissioner last month, headscarf bans and other “legal condescension” do not achieve this purpose, he said. Instead they are “damaging populist activism.”
While Muslims are regularly accused of an unwillingness to integrate or engage in dialogue, the majority of European society does “very little” to be hospitable or respectful, he said.
“A climate of trust can only happen if Muslims are naturally entitled to the right to their own religion, culture and language, and cultural diversity is considered to be a benefit and enrichment to our country and not a threat or burden,” Kramer said.
A result of referendum in Switzerland banning the construction of minarets will slow the integration of Muslims into Europe and lead to tensions with Muslim countries, a European Middle East analyst said yesterday.
"The Swiss referendum's result certainly does not represent a step forward on the path to the integration of Muslims in Europe," Chiara Sulmoni wrote Trend News in an e-mail. Sulmoni works as an analyst at the Geneva- based Center for the Study and Research of Arab Countries and the Mediterranean Basin.
"On the contrary, it deals a blow to a community which in Switzerland represents about five percent of the total population, is generally well-assimilated, unconspicuous, and diverse, she said.
Following a highly controversial campaign based on stereotypes and targeting minarets as symbols of political conquest, expectations for the vote were high. But the Swiss unexpectedly gave in to projected fears of radicalism and political Islam, which are becoming increasingly common in the rest of Europe, Sulmoni believes.
On Sunday the Swiss population supported a ban on building minarets on the territory of the confederacy in a general referendum.
The majority of the votes of the 59 percent of the population that participated in the referendum supported the Swiss People's Party (SVP), known for its nationalist slogans and hope to prohibit the construction of minarets in the country.
SVP representatives see the minarets not as religious, but rather as political symbol and calls on avoiding the "Islamization" of the country, while the Swiss government and parliament also opposed the referendum, RIA Novosti wrote.
According to Sulmoni, the Swiss government did not consider a ban on building minarets as a method of combating extremism, the proliferation of which frightens the Swiss population.
"By encouraging islamophobic tendencies in Europe [a fear of Islam in the West], it might on the contrary achieve the opposite result, heightening and exacerbating a sense of exclusion and discrimination", the expert said, adding that it will also affect future Muslim generations in Europe who will feel rejected by local religious communities.
According to various estimates, about 350,000-400,000 Muslims, mostly immigrants from Turkey and the Balkan countries, live in Switzerland, whose population is about 7.7 million people.
Opponents of the ban believe such action is contrary to the principles of freedom of religion and constitutes discrimination on racial and religious lines, RIA Novosti wrote.
Switzerland also fears the reduction of rich Gulf Arab countries' investments.
Given Switzerland's traditional mediating role in the Middle East, tensions with the Muslim world on a political and economic level are now expected to increase. Some countries might ask the Swiss government to clarify its position vis-a-vis the referendum in the same way that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) did previously.
"In order to preserve amicable diplomatic relations, it is paramount to explain that the Swiss establishment - the government, most political parties, economic circles, and also part of the population - are not supportive of a ban infringing the rights of Swiss Muslims in any way, the expert said, pointing out that it is equally important to underscore hat in line with its system of direct democracy.
"Swiss political institutions must act according to the will of the people and take its fears into consideration. To maintain friendly diplomatic relations, it is necessary to convince the world that the government and political establishment of Switzerland, most political parties and economic interests are against the ban," Sulmoni said.
Given the Muslim population and Turkey's potential accession into the EU, it is paramount for Europe to find ways to peacefully accomodate Islam, she said.
Controversy over minarets in Switzerland and the issue of headscarves in France are a pretext for further discussions on the rights of Muslims in Western societies. However, due to the fact that the Muslim community in Switzerland is not well-organized, there will be political tensions between the supporters of the ban and its opponents, Sulmoni said.
However, individuals or parties can still independently appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. The Swiss government will be obliged to take seriously the issue of confrontation in Swiss society, the analyst said.
The referendum in Switzerland has also led to an outbreak of acts of vandalism against mosques. After unknown individuals threw stones at a mosque in early November, a mosque entrance was desecrated by pink paint three days before the referendum.
Minaret ban 'a security risk' - Swiss minister
1 December 2009
A decision by Swiss voters to ban the construction of minarets poses a risk to Switzerland's security, the country's foreign minister says.
Micheline Calmy-Rey said the Swiss government was "very concerned" about the ban, adopted by voters on Sunday.
"Each limitation on the co-existence of different cultures and religions also endangers our security," she told the European security body, the OSCE.
A top UN official has called the ban "clearly discriminatory".
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the ban was "deeply divisive" and at odds with Switzerland's international legal obligations.
More than 57.5% of Swiss voters and 22 out of 26 cantons - or provinces - voted in favour of the ban on Sunday.
The proposal had been put forward by the Swiss People's Party (SVP), the largest party in parliament, which said minarets were a sign of Islamisation.
Muslim leaders across the world, as well as those of other faiths, criticised the minaret ban as a blow to religious freedom.
But European right-wing groups welcomed the result, calling for other countries to take similar measures.
"Provocation risks triggering other provocation and risks inflaming extremism," Mrs Calmy-Rey said at the OSCE meeting in Athens.
Sunday's referendum has forced the government to declare illegal the building of any new minarets, but Mrs Calmy-Rey said Muslims could still build new mosques and continue to worship in the country.
"Swiss Muslims are well integrated and will continue to attend the 200 mosques in the country," she said.
She said if an appeal against the referendum was lodged at the European Court of Human Rights, it would be up to the court to decide on its legality.
Tuesday 01 December 2009
Switzerland's ban on building new minarets probably conflicts with the freedom of religion and therefore breaches international treaties on human rights, Dutch foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen said on Monday.
Verhagan, a member of the Christian Democratic party, said he had his doubts that the ban would stand up in court.
Earlier, home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst described the Swiss referendum outcome as 'very regrettable'. 'I hope this never happens in the Netherlands,' she said.
Anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders said he would press for a similar ban in Holland. 'If the government is unwilling to hold a referendum, the PVV will present its own bill to parliament. What is possible in Switzerland should also be possible here,' he was reported as saying.
The Call From the Swiss Minaret
By Claudio Cordone
December 1, 2009
The stunning success of the popular initiative to ban minarets in Switzerland has turned heads around the world. But what does it really mean for Swiss Muslims, and what are the implications and lessons for other European countries?
From a strictly legal point of view, the construction of minarets is now prohibited in Switzerland. No further legislation is required to implement this constitutional provision and there is nothing that federal or cantonal authorities can do to challenge it.
The only avenue for Swiss Muslims to overturn the ban is through the courts the next time an application to construct a mosque is rejected because of it. Such a challenge will no doubt not be long in coming. It should also be successful.
As a great many Swiss and international legal experts have said, the ban is clearly inconsistent with Switzerland’s obligations under international law to respect the freedom of religion and not to discriminate on the grounds of religious belief. Even if the Swiss Federal Supreme Court does not reject the law, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg almost certainly will.
In the meantime, however, the ban will remain in force. And much harm will already have been done. The popularity of the ban — even more than the measure itself — will damage relations between Switzerland’s small Muslim minority and the rest of the population. Extremists on all sides will take encouragement. The integration of Swiss Muslims, the necessary two-way process of respect and adaptation, will inevitably suffer.
The success of the referendum brings with it some long, hard lessons for the Swiss authorities that other European countries and political leaders would also do well to heed.
First, xenophobic and, specifically, Islamophobic sentiment is much more widespread than even the most pessimistic observers had thought. Opinion polls in the run-up to the referendum consistently showed a majority of voters to be opposed to the ban.
How wrong they were. In the privacy of the voting booth, silent prejudices found their voice. The situation is probably similar across Europe; the success of far-right parties in the recent European Parliament elections certainly suggests so. Indeed, the only surprise in Switzerland was how surprised we were.
Second, the failure of civil society and the leading mainstream political parties to campaign aggressively against the referendum was clearly a big mistake.
With lower levels of popular prejudice, the reluctance to engage and give air-time to xenophobic views by debating and challenging them might have worked.
It did not in Switzerland. The absence of vocal, united and consistent opposition to the initiative clearly left the terrain free for the fear-mongering and exaggeration that Islamophobic ideologues thrive on. Other countries should not make the same mistake.
Already, calls are being made for similar policies in other European countries. The success of Swiss referendum must, therefore, serve as a wake up call not just for Switzerland, but for the rest of Europe too.
Much more comprehensive measures are needed, across Europe, to combat discrimination and promote the integration of Muslim and immigrant communities. A much greater commitment is needed from political leaders, from civil society — from all moderate, tolerant voices — to expose, confront and counter xenophobic views. Complacence is complicity.
The cost of failure is huge. Intolerance lies at the heart of Europe’s most ubiquitous human rights violation — discrimination. Discrimination tears societies apart. Of all continents, Europe should know a thing or two about this.
December 01, 2009
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday termed the public referendum in Switzerland banning minarets in the country, as "unhelpful" to the cause of promoting inter-faith harmony and tolerance.
Commenting on the November 29 referendum, the Foreign Office spokesman hoped that the government of Switzerland, which opposed the referendum, would take necessary steps in accordance with the Swiss constitution towards reversing the decision.
Turkey demonstrated an all-out reaction Tuesday to a Swiss ban on minarets, saying it was violating basic human rights and freedoms.
President Abdullah Gül, speaking to reporters in Ankara before departing for Jordan, said the issue should be followed seriously.
“This is a noteworthy example in terms of showing how animosity toward Islam, as we call it ‘Islamophobia,’ has been developing in the Western world. This is a disgrace for the Swiss,” said Gül.
In Parliament, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the ban was a reflection of increasing racist and extreme nationalist waves in Europe, recalling the remarks he made earlier that Islamophobia was a crime against humanity just like anti-Semitism.
“What is the relationship of a mosque minaret with fundamentalism? That is an outdated, primitive understanding,” said Erdoğan, addressing his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, deputies.
His remarks came in response to the Swiss justice minister who said the ban targeted not Muslims but fundamentalism.
“The ban and making such a statement are two separate mistakes,” said Erdoğan, adding that the referendum result in a country considered the cradle of democracy and freedom worried many people.
“Such kinds of issues cannot be taken to referendum … these are rights coming from birth. I am speaking as the prime minister of a country, of a civilization that proved mosques and synagogues can co-exist on the same street for centuries,” Erdoğan said. “It is incomprehensible that while we are restoring such temples, [the Swiss] are taking such steps.”
The referendum by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party labeled minarets as symbols of rising Muslim political power that could one day transform Switzerland into an Islamic nation. The initiative was approved 57.5 to 42.5 percent during the referendum Sunday. Not only Muslims but also international organizations criticized the vote. Europe’s top human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, indicated that the heavily criticized vote could be overturned.
Erdoğan expressed the hope that European Union member states, and such institutions as the European Court of Human Rights, would display sensitivity and would not allow the world to be dragged into tension.
“Bearing the title of co-chairman of the Alliance of Civilizations, it is my duty to remind you that it is necessary to turn back from this mistake as soon as possible,” said Erdoğan. “The world would no longer wants to see chauvinist approaches in this era.”
He said there should be a limit to what can be taken to referendum in democracies, stressing that basic rights and freedoms cannot be put to vote. “Switzerland has made a mistake. I am calling for common sense,” he said.
In a written statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the Swiss vote has caused disappointment and is unfortunate. It called on Switzerland to correct the decision, adding that more than 100,000 Turks living in Switzerland were worried.
“Switzerland, having a respected place in the international arena with its tradition of respecting diversity and reconciliation, is expected by Turkey and the international community to take steps to correct this situation, which does not comply with its traditions,” the ministry said.
The opposition also criticized the ban, with Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal considering it as an important development for Europe to question itself and its outlook toward Islam and for Turkey to question both Europe and itself.
“Europe cannot put this aside,” said the party leader in Parliament.
Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli strongly condemned the ban and called it a "black stain on Europe's human rights and freedom of religion and conscious record." In a written statement, he said the referendum result showed Western values were confined to Christianity and discriminated against other religions.
Switzerland minaret ban condemned
Switzerland is facing international criticism and charges of intolerance following a shock referendum vote backing a constitutional ban on the construction of new minarets.
The Vatican joined the expressions of dismay after Sunday's vote saying that it oppressed religious freedom, as the Swiss government moved to assure Muslims it was not a rejection of their religion.
The imam of Switzerland's biggest mosque, in Geneva, meanwhile called on the Muslim world to "respect, without accepting" the outcome and to avoid cutting off ties with Switzerland.
Youssef Ibram in an interview with AFP sharply criticised Swiss authorities for not intervening more forcefully in defence of religious freedom before the referendum got off the ground.
Muslims account for about five per cent of Switzerland's population of 7.5 million people, and form the third-largest religious group after the dominant Roman Catholic and Protestant communities.
Freedom of worship is one of the cornerstones of Switzerland's founding constitution.
Criticisms also came from across the Muslim world, with Pakistani religious groups condemning it as "extreme Islamophobia".
Religious leaders in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, condemned the vote as a manifestation of religious "hatred" but urged a restrained response.
"This is the hatred of Swiss people against Muslim communities," said Maskuri Abdillah, head of Nahdlatul Ulama which has 40 million members.
"They don't want to see a Muslim presence in their country and this intense dislike has made them intolerant," he told AFP.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, called the ban an "example of growing anti-Islamic incitement in Europe by the extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, scare-mongering ultra-right politicians who reign over common sense, wisdom and universal values".
The Swiss People's Party (SVP) had forced a referendum on the issue after it collected 100,000 signatures within 18 months from eligible voters.
Some 57 per cent voted to ban the further construction of minarets - towers attached to mosques used to put out the Muslim call to prayer.
The result now paves the way for a constitutional amendment to be made.
The result also flew in the face of opinion polls that had predicted a 'no' vote and surprised government ministers who had opposed the ban alongside the bulk of Switzerland's political and religious establishment.
Other European anti-immigrant parties have sought to capitalise on the result, but it was largely condemned elsewhere in Europe.
Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister whose country holds the European Union presidency, called the vote "an expression of quite a bit of prejudice and maybe even fear" and "a negative signal in every way".
His French counterpart Bernard Kouchner castigated the referendum saysing he was "scandalised" by the vote which he said amounted to "oppressing a religion".
"I hope that the Swiss will go back on this decision rather quickly," he told France's RTL radio. "It is an expression of intolerance, and I detest intolerance."
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) warned the vote had the potential "to create tensions and generate a climate of intolerance against Muslims".
On Monday Europe's top human-rights watchdog said possible violation of fundamental liberties arising from the Swiss ban on minarets could see the heavily-criticised vote overturned.
Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, said the issue raised concerns of whether "fundamental rights of individuals, protected by international treaties, should be subject to popular votes
In a statement Jagland suggested that a case may be made to seek a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights condemning Switzerland for violating freedom of expression, freedom of religion and prohibition of discrimination.
A UN human rights expert also warned that the vote restricted religious freedom and violated Switzerland's international treaty obligations.
Asma Jahangir, the UN special investigator on religious freedom, said the ban marked "clear discrimination" against Switzerland's Muslim community and urged the government to take the necessary measures to fully protect their religious freedom.
"As also stated by the United Nations Human Rights Committee a month ago, such a ban is contrary to Switzerland's obligations under international human rights law," she said in a statement released by the UN.
Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the Swiss justice minister, said the ban would come into force immediately, but noted the possibility that the court could strike down the vote.
"The ban contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights," Zurich daily Blick quoted Widmer-Schlumpf as saying, referring to the 1950 treaty outlining the basic rights of member states.
Commenting on the vote, Daniel Warner, a Swiss-American political scientist at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, said wealthy Arab tourists might think twice now about spending their money in Geneva and other Swiss cities.
He added that Switzerland's efforts to mediate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a neutral country could also suffer.
December 1, 2009, Tuesday
A top UN official has called the ban "clearly discriminatory", the BBC reported.
More than 57,5% of Swiss voters and 22 out of 26 cantons - or provinces - voted in favour of the ban on Sunday.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Tuesday that Switzerland's vote on Nov. 29 to ban minarets in the country is contrary to fundamental rights and freedoms, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.
"This is a shame for the Swiss," Gul was quoted as saying at the Esenboga airport in the Turkish capital of Ankara prior to his departure for a formal visit to Jordan.
"This issue should be monitored seriously," Gul said.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party in the parliament Tuesday that it was a wrong decision to hold the minaret vote in Switzerland, Erdogan said.
The majority of Swiss voters on Sunday said yes to a ban on the construction of Muslim minarets. The Swiss government said in a statement that it respected the decision made by Swiss voters, and "consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted."
Tue, 01 Dec 2009
Iran describes the Swiss referendum banning the construction of minarets in the country an "Islamophobic act" and a blow to the religious freedom declared in the West.
"We consider such acts as inappropriate … a move that is against the western claims of democracy and religious freedom," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Tuesday.
Speaking at his weekly press briefing in Tehran, Mehmanparast said "surprisingly some of the actions of the West have Islamophobic roots."
A clear majority of 57.5 percent of the Swiss population and 22 out of 26 cantons (provinces) on Sunday voted in favor of the ban on the construction of minarets — a distinct architectural feature of Islamic mosques from which Muslims are called to prayer.
The country's largest party, the nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP) and the Federal Democratic Union joined forces to convince people that the minaret posed a threat to Switzerland's future.
In their campaign posters, allowed under freedom of speech despite their Islamophobic depiction, the Swiss flag is seen covered with missile-like minarets next to a menacing figure of a woman cloaked in a black burqa.
Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims and only four minarets.
The government acceded to the vote, saying, "The Federal Council (government) respects this decision. Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted."
Amnesty International said last week that "the ban on the construction of minarets would breach Switzerland's obligations to uphold freedom of religion."
"A change in the constitution which would provide for the blanket ban on the construction of minarets must be soundly rejected. Such a move is important as it will reinforce the equality of rights for all people living in Switzerland," said Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, Nicola Duckworth.
December 2, 2009
GENEVA: The United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has criticised a Swiss vote banning minarets, while the imam at the country's biggest mosque has urged the Islamic world to respect the decision, saying any backlash would harm Muslims.
''The message is one of calm,'' said Youssef Ibram, imam at the Geneva mosque, which was vandalised several times before the vote. ''It will not help to abandon trade or ties with Switzerland.
''The Muslim world must respect, without accepting the decision. But it must respect the Swiss decision. Otherwise, we would be the first victims.''
The right-wing proposal for a ban, which was approved by more than 57 per cent of voters in a referendum, was ''discriminatory, deeply divisive and a thoroughly unfortunate step for Switzerland to take'', Ms Pillay said in a statement issued yesterday.
She warned that it risked ''putting the country on a collision course with its international human rights obligations'' because of its discrimination against a single religion.
Switzerland voted on Sunday to ban minarets on mosques, backing an initiative brought by the far-right Swiss People's Party, the country's biggest political party.
The result flew in the face of opinion polls that had predicted a rejection and caught out government ministers who had opposed the ban alongside the bulk of Switzerland's political, religious and economic establishment.
The Government told the country's 400,000 Muslims, who are mainly from the Balkans and Turkey, that the outcome was ''not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture''.
But Mr Ibram said that the Government was at fault for not having shot down the initiative. He said it could have stopped the proposal from going to a vote, on the grounds it violated constitutional provisions guaranteeing religious freedom.
''Muslims and Islam have been condemned,'' he said. ''Even if today we say it's not the case, it is the case.''
Agence France-Presse, Guardian News & Media
By Marshall Frank
01 December 2009
If readers are willing to open all the links below, it will provide a thumbnail sketch of the situation which confronts most countries in Europe. Talk to any countryman in France, England, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, and etc., and they will tell you that the power of Islam is sweeping over their land.
The root of these problems are based in liberal immigration policies which began more than forty years ago. More specifically, guest worker programs (sound familiar?) whereby domestics and other workers came to their countries from Algeria, Morocco, Turkey and other places, to take jobs for lesser pay than European workers were willing to accept. Ergo, the greed factor. Cheap labor equates to more money in one's pocket. In the long run, however, the price being paid will be far more costly.
Muslim_Birth_BombIn 1980, there were approximately 1,000 Muslims in Norway. Today, there are estimated over 120,000. While population growth varies from country to country, the rate of increase among Muslims is much greater than non-Muslims. Mosques are being erected at a must faster rate all over Europe, than any other religious institution. Throughout Europe, the rate of procreation is four time greater among Muslim mothers, than non-Muslim mothers. Today, the threat to Norwegian culture is worrying their people. Here's one article:
Brits are between a rock and a hard place trying to decide whether to allow Shariah law to trump British law in their court system. Muslims are making strong demands, and the Brits are listening.
Consider, Geert Wilder, the Dutch politician who produced the film "Fitna" ....the same man who has been warning Europe and the Americans about the rising threat of Islam, is considered a front runner for heading his government. Such, is an example of the feelings of Europeans about the rapidly changing cultural mosaic of their continent. For those who are unaware of this 17 minute documentary, please visit:
Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France has drawn a line, saying there is place for burkas in his country. Clearly, sentiments in Europe are changing. Cultures, such as the French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Scandinavian and English may not be French, Spanish Dutch, Scandinavian and English in fifty years, if current trends continue, and so-called "tolerance" is the politically correct buzz word of the day.
Now the Swiss have spoken. See the two articles below describe the recent vote by Swiss people to ban the further erection of minarets. Perhaps, tolerance is taking on a new dimension?
Tolerance is wonderful, but there has to be a retention of a nation's culture, or else, the culture will disappear. Americans don't think it can happen to us. Europeans didn't think that either, twenty years ago.
Just because we can't see it coming, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Twenty years ago, I was getting ready to retire from a police career in Miami. The subject of mosques, Muslims or jihad rarely passed the lips of any American, nor did we read about it in the media. What a difference a generation makes. Imagine the next?
Thirty years of law enforcement in Miami, Florida, including sixteen years working homicide, gives Marshall Frank a huge reservoir from which to draw insights into the problems facing America today. After retiring from the Miami-Dade P.D. in 1990, Frank went on to become a writer, now with eight published books, five fiction and three non-fiction. His book "Militant Islam In America" was published after an exhaustive research study about the inroads that radicals are making within the borders of the U.S. He is currently working on a non-fiction book about the abominable criminal justice system. Book listings, prices and availability can be accessed at his web site: www.marshallfrank.com.
December 1, 200
The rightwing Swiss People's Party is planning further steps against the spread of Islam in Switzerland following voters' approval of a ban on new minarets.
High on the agenda are tighter legal measures against forced marriages and genital mutilation of women, as well as a ban on wearing the burka in public and special dispensation from swimming lessons for Muslim pupils.
"Voters gave a strong signal to stop the claim to power by political Islam in Switzerland at the expense of our laws and values. Muslims must be spurred to integrate into society," said Adrian Amstutz, parliamentarian and senior member of the People's Party.
His group – one of the main parties in parliament – was a leading backer of an initiative to outlaw the construction of minarets, which won over 57 per cent of the vote in a public ballot at the weekend.
He says his party will reinforce its calls in parliament for further measures to contain the creeping Islamicisation of Swiss society.
"Forced marriages, female circumcision, special dispensation from swimming lessons and the burka are top of the list," Amstutz said, adding that the party was also considering outlawing special Muslim cemeteries.
Party leader Toni Brunner said Muslims who settled in Switzerland had to realise that they could not turn up to work in a head scarf.
No parallel societies
The party said the outcome of the minaret ballot showed that Swiss voters did not want parallel societies and special rights.
"Our laws apply to everybody. We have to control immigration. Those who break the law have to leave the country," a statement said.
The party collected enough signatures for an initiative aimed at expelling foreigners convicted of a crime or of cheating welfare. No date for the nationwide vote has been set.
In October the government announced it was planning to tighten the law to crack down on forced marriages, while the centre-right Christian Democratic Party has been pushing for a ban on wearing the burka – a loose body-covering including a face-veil – in a bid to fight for women's rights.
Amstutz is convinced the time is right to take action.
"Until now our proposals have been rejected or watered down," he said. "Maybe it is finally dawning on the government and the other parties that they should do something."
The party also made clear it would not tolerate any attempt to delay implementation of the minaret ban.
"Those who question whether the text of the initiative can be put into practice show an alarming lack of appreciation for democratic rights."
The party leadership asked for Switzerland to suspend its membership in an international agreement if the European Court of Human Rights decided against the minaret ban. However, such a step was ruled out by Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.
A local Muslim association in Switzerland announced on Monday that it would challenge in court a ban on the construction of a new minaret in the town of Langenthal, even if such a move would take years.
Chances are that Sunday's decision by voters is likely to be overruled by the Strasbourg-based court, according to legal expert Walter Kälin, quoted by the Swiss News Agency.
There are currently four minarets in Switzerland and about 200 mosques and prayer rooms. Further requests to build minarets are pending.
Switzerland's ban on building new minarets probably conflicts with the freedom of religion and therefore breaches international treaties on human rights
Nope. As per UN and European Convention of human rights, freedom of religion consists of
Freedom to hold any belief and freedom to change any belief- unconditional and unqualified right.
Freedom to manifest one's religion (which includes freedom of worship) is not an unqualified worship and is subject to regulation by law. Not allowing minarets to be built by voting and amending Constitution does not infringe freedom of religion and conscience at all. It is reasonable restriction on right to manifest one's religion. One cannot blare adhan and create nuisance for others. Besides, in Kashmir, the minarets were used to give a call for violence against Kashmiri Pandits. The Turkish PM has described 'minarets' as 'bayonets of Islam'. Nothing wrong in banning bayonets.
Muslims do not have any locus standii to oppose the Swiss decision. They are themselves bigoted and intolerant of other religions. No European country or any other non-Islamic country can become a breeding ground for this virulent religion. The religion itself should be outlawed.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that prohibiting an architectural structure linked to Islam or any religion was “clearly discriminatory.” She said the ban was “discriminatory, deeply divisive and a thoroughly unfortunate step for Switzerland to take, and risks putting the country on a collision course with its international human rights obligations.”
THE UN SHOULD FOR A CHANGE LECTURE TO SAUDI ARABIA ON ITS HUMAN RIGHTS OBLIGATIONS. SPARE US THE NON-MUSLIMS UR LECTURE ON HUMAN RIGHTS.
The Minarets ban in Switzerland is a wake up call for Muslims around the world and has emphasised that religious freedom is not a one-way process. Could somebody prepare a list of so-called Islamic countries which allow unrestricted religious freedom?
There is one thing common between the Communists and the Islamists that both of them want unrestricted freedom and human rights when they are in minority, but establish an intolerant and totalitarian society when they are in majority or, in power. Whether it is erstwhile Soviet Union, Cuba, China or, North Korea, the Communists have no regard for human rights. But they want freedom and unrestricted rights all over the world when they are in minority. Even in Nepal, if Maoists come to absolute majority, the country is likely to have fewer freedoms than even the Monarchy. The communists ban all other political parties when they are in power but cry violation of human rights if a non-communist country bans a communist party. This is a proof of double standards followed by both - Communists as well as Islamists.
What kind of religious freedoms are available to Non-Muslims and other minorities in Saudi Arabia, Iran (to Sunnis and Baha'is), Kuwait, Pakistan (especially to Ahmadias and Hindus), Brunei and in many other Muslim majority countries like Oman, Qatar, Libya etc.? Nearer home, Maldives, a member of SAARC, does not allow any place of worship other than belonging to official Islam and has ruled that all Maldivians are born Muslims and have to be brought up according to the official Islamic practices. Islamists want Secularism till they are in minority, but declare an Islamic State as soon as they are in majority. How many countries having Muslim majority are secular as per their constitution? Will India still be a secular country if Muslim population exceeds 51% ?
These are the questions to be answered by all those who want religious or, cultural freedoms anywhere in civilised world. This equally applies to those groups who want equal rights in other parts of the country while denying the same to others in their region (like MNS, Shiv Sena, Ram Sene, several North-Eastern groups and supporters of Khalistan in Punjab).
In all this noise, an essential fact is missed. The Turkish PM had called Minarets as "the bayonets of Islam". So, if the Swiss reacted the way they did, one really cannot blame then.
Secondly, people dont like noisy practice of religion. People get disturbed whenb adhan is blared from minarets in loudspeaker. I may remind everyone, that religious freedom has its inherent limits. In Headteacher and Governors of Denbigh High School v R(Begum) 2 All ER 487, the House of Lords held in para 86 of the decision as under:
"Freedom to manifest one's religion" does not mean that one has the right to manifest one's religion at any time and in any place and in any manner that accords with one's beliefs. "
This needs to be borne in mind not only by muslims who blare adhan and pray on roads and create a nuisance but also by hindus who noisily celebrate Ganesh festival and Navratri.