Swiss Ban On Minarets Hurts All
December 2, 2009, 2:59 am
Filed under: Human Rights, Religion | Tags: , , ,

Sunday’s vote in Switzerland, where citizens overwhelming supported an initiative to ban the construction of minarets, reveals that the troubling scourge of hate that has unfortunately taken form in Western Europe, is getting stronger. Though passage has emboldened conservative groups throughout Europe, there is little chance that the ban will ultimately stay in place.

A vote that so clearly discriminates against a minority (Muslims constitute some 6% of the population) will unfortunately mire Switzerland’s role as arbiter of global disputes. In such emotionally charged issues, the nuances of the matter often fall by the wayside and so, many might not consider the fact that the Swiss government itself opposed the measure from day one. But the people of that country spoke, and they voted for intolerance and that, at least until it gets overturned, will be the policy of the Swiss government.

But again, it is unlikely that the vote will stick. The U.N. has weighed in on the issue and has called the initiative “clearly discriminatory.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is condemning the Swiss law banning minarets as clearly discriminatory. The U.N. official calls the ban deeply divisive and worrisome.


Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, says the high commissioner believes this action risks putting the country on a collision course with its international human-rights obligations.

The editors of the New York Times were less diplomatic in their response.

Terrorist attacks by Islamic militants, notably 9/11 and the attacks on London, Madrid and Mumbai, have played a role in the perception of Muslims as a security threat. But the worst response to extremism and intolerance is extremism and intolerance. Banning minarets does not address any of the problems with Muslim immigrants, but it is certain to alienate and anger them.

Supporters of such measures argue that non-Muslims are discriminated against in many Muslim countries. While there is much to lament, the argument does not stick. It is not okay to deny fundamental human rights to people based on the premise that others are denying such rights. Professor Juan Cole writes:

The other problem with excusing Switzerland with reference to Muslims’ own imperfect adherence to human rights ideals is that two wrongs don’t make a right. The bigotted Right doesn’t even have the moral insight of kindergartners if that is the sort of argument they advance.

Well put.


2 Comments so far
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Sorry, but we don’t want minaretts, though we have nothing against such buildings in your own country, where you can build them for all you are worth. We don’t want to hear the screech of amplified Muezzins. It is not our kind of prayer or music, but you can screech all you want in your own countries, and we don’t mind hearing it there, provided we can leave when we’ve had enough. So lets be fare, eh bushy -faced boys and shroud-covered girls ?
By the way, would you mind if we started a nudist colony on one of your long sunny beaches, and fed everyone on beer and pork ?

Comment by Colin L Beadon

Who is the “we” that you speak of?

Comment by subalternate

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