Some seek to ban minarets on Swiss mosques

22nd May 2007, Comments 0 comments

22 May 2007, Geneva (dpa) - Signatures by 100,000 petitioners are needed in Switzerland for a referendum - including a possible one on banning the construction of minarets on mosques. Deputies from the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) and Federal Democratic Union (EDU), who are pushing for a vote, are confident they can collect the signatures by November 2008. Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey voiced opposition this month, saying efforts to impose a ban were harmful to the country's security i

22 May 2007

Geneva (dpa) - Signatures by 100,000 petitioners are needed in Switzerland for a referendum - including a possible one on banning the construction of minarets on mosques.

Deputies from the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) and Federal Democratic Union (EDU), who are pushing for a vote, are confident they can collect the signatures by November 2008.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey voiced opposition this month, saying efforts to impose a ban were harmful to the country's security interests and potentially dangerous to the Swiss themselves. Her spokesman confirmed she considered a referendum a bad idea.

Calmy-Rey feels it is too risky to dismiss the campaign for a referendum as a vote-getting tactic ahead of Swiss parliamentary elections in October.

Memories are still fresh of protests in the Muslim world following the publication in Denmark of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Geneva, where Calmy-Rey was born, has had a mosque with a minaret since 1978. The structure has not bothered anyone up to now with the possible exception of some parents who have trouble finding parking spaces on Fridays - the main day of prayers - when they come to pick up their children from the nearby German School.

Another mosque with a minaret is in Zurich, directly opposite a church. There have not been any problems there either, residents say.

Nevertheless, efforts are under way to add an article to Switzerland's constitution prohibiting the construction of minarets - - a nightmare for democrats and human rights activists.

What, then, is the point of this initiative, whose opponents include the Swiss Bishops' Conference and which - as the Berner Zeitung newspaper noted - has been attacked by the Arabic television satellite station al-Jazeera and various websites?

Led by Christoph Blocher, a well-spoken industrialist, the SVP is the strongest party in the National Council, the larger of the Swiss parliament's two chambers.

It has 55 seats in the 200-seat body as well as two ministers in the Swiss government, which is elected by parliament and has representatives from all the major political parties.

Observers say the SVP is fishing for votes to hold on to power in October. The EDU, among whose aversions are abortion and same-sex partnerships, has just two seats in the National Council.

The nearly 340,000 Muslims in Switzerland, which has a population of about 7.5 million, are often the object of animosity.

According to a survey by the news magazine Facts, for the most part they practise their religion quietly in more than 140 houses of worship.

The desire to make mosques more visible has increased, however. In three Swiss cantons there are now building applications for minarets, slender towers topped by a crescent.

The foes of minarets have brought in the heavy artillery. The approximately 100 supporters of a ban, including 35 SVP deputies, declared that Islam was making a "political-religious bid for power."

Among the evidence they cited was a remark by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister and ex-mayor of Istanbul, that "the mosques are our barracks, the minarets our bayonets, the domes our helmets, and the believers our soldiers."

This, say those seeking a referendum, must be stopped in Switzerland.

DPA

Subject: German news

0 Comments To This Article