Swiss minaret ban draws worldwide criticism

1st December 2009, Comments 15 comments

Many countries expressed concerns about Islamophobia after the Swiss passed a ban that will stop the construction of minarets.

Paris -- A decision by Swiss voters to ban the building of minarets drew widespread criticism on Monday, with neighbouring governments attacking what they called a demonstration of fear-driven prejudice.

"It's an expression of quite a bit of prejudice and maybe even fear," said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency.

"It is clear that it is a negative signal in every way, there's no doubt about it," he told Swedish Radio.

Bernard Kouchner, foreign minister of Switzerland's immediate neighbour France, was equally damning in his condemnation of the result.

"I am a bit shocked by this decision," Kouchner told RTL radio. "It is an expression of intolerance."

"I hope the Swiss will reverse this decision quickly," he added.

Lawmakers at the Council of Europe, a 47-member human rights watchdog that Switzerland currently chairs, issued a statement expressing its concern at the result.

"Although it expresses the popular will, the decision to ban the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is a source of profound concern," said Lluis Maria de Puig, the president of the body's parliamentary assembly.

"The result of this referendum goes against the values of tolerance, dialogue and respect for other people’s beliefs," he added.

In Italy, government and religious officials also attacked the result.

Foreign Affairs Minister Franco Frattini expressed the Italian government's "concern,” while the Vatican also slammed the move, endorsing earlier criticism by a group of Swiss bishops who said it was a blow to religious freedom.

Antonio Maria Sveglio, president of the pontifical council on migration, told the ANSA news agency that "we are on the same page" as the Conference of Swiss Bishops.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Christoph Steegmans declined to comment on the result, telling AFP that Berlin was not "going to give advice to Switzerland."

He added that the government was certain that "freedom of religion is as important in Switzerland as it is here."

Some 57.5 percent of those who cast their ballot voted in favour of banning the building of minarets which are attached to mosques and use for the traditional call to prayer, amid a turnout of 53 percent.

Not all reactions were critical. Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders, who leads the far-right Party for Freedom, called the result "wonderful" and asked for a similar referendum to be held in the Netherlands.

"What is possible in Switzerland should be possible here," he said in a statement on the web site of his party, which holds nine of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament.

Members of the hard right Swiss People's Party (SVP) -- Switzerland's biggest party -- and other right wing groups brought the 'people's initiative' referendum after petitioning 100,000 signatures from eligible voters.

In neighbouring Austria, Interior Minister Maria Fekter said the government would "look at" the Swiss ban, but stressed that "freedom of religion is anchored in the (Austrian) constitution."

But Austrian media were united in their attack of the Swiss ban.

The Der Standard daily described the vote as the "ugly face of direct democracy,” while the Die Presse newspaper said Swiss voters had done a "disservice" to their country.

Sunday's result has also sparked anger in the Muslim world with religious groups in Pakistan attacking the referendum as "extreme Islamophobia."

"This development reflects extreme Islamophobia among people in the West," said Khurshid Ahmad, vice president of Jamaat-e-Islami, a hardline Islamic political party in Pakistan's parliament.

Maskuri Abdillah, head of Indonesia's biggest Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama, said that the vote reflected "a hatred of Swiss people against Muslim communities.”

Egypt's Mufti Ali Gomaa, the Egyptian government's official interpreter of Islamic law, denounced the minaret ban as an "insult" to Muslims across the world and "an attack on freedom of beliefs."

Muslims account for just five percent of Switzerland's population of 7.5 million people, and form the third largest religion group after the dominant Roman Catholic and Protestant communities, although just 50,000 are estimated to openly worship.

The constitutional amendment only bans the construction of minarets, and has no impact on mosques or the freedom of religious worship.

Switzerland has just four minarets, which are not allowed to broadcast the call to prayer, as well as some 200 mosques, according to official sources.


15 Comments To This Article

  • michael ben posted:

    on 22nd January 2010, 09:55:36 - Reply

    There are several varieties of democracy, some of which provide better representation and more freedoms for their citizens than others.[8][9] However, if any democracy is not carefully legislated to avoid an uneven distribution of political power with balances, such as the separation of powers, then a branch of the system of rule could accumulate power and become harmful to the democracy itself.[10][11][12]

    The "majority rule" is often described as a characteristic feature of democracy, but without responsible government or constitutional protections of individual liberties from democratic power it is possible for dissenting individuals to be oppressed by the "tyranny of the majority". An essential process in representative democracies is competitive elections, that are fair both substantively[13] and procedurally.[14] Furthermore, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are essential so that citizens are informed and able to vote in their personal interests.[15][16]

    Popular sovereignty is common but not a universal motivating subject for establishing a democracy. In some countries, democracy is based on the philosophical principle of equal rights. Many people use the term "democracy" as shorthand for liberal democracy, which may include additional elements such as political pluralism, equality before the law, the right to petition elected officials for redress of grievances, due process, civil liberties, human rights, and elements of civil society outside the government.
    See Wikipedia Democracy.
    The E.U. does give us the right to vote, to express our ideas and thoughts.
    And to protect the minority beliefs and thoughts as well as the majority.
    Mr. Wilders, does not want certain peoples, single out. Is this your thought as well?
    The mentioning of such as Saudi Arabia, and other such as Iran are not in such a league. Repression of ideas and thought to force theirs upon all others

  • David posted:

    on 21st January 2010, 19:01:33 - Reply

    A heartfelt THANK YOU to Switzerland. Now that all the poitically correct rabble world-wide are showing they are outraged NOT at muslim violence, but a DEMOCRATIC vote, you can rest assured you made the right decision. To compare this vote to the nazis is laughable at best. They were a group that ideologically mirrored the islamic ideology. Nazis murdered 6 million Jews and 6 million others (the invalids, homosexuals, Christian followers and others who hid Jews, and those politically opposed to them), which sounds frighteningly similar to the Islamic views held by many arab nations and in fact the Nazis even worked with muslim groups (birds of a feather..). To question “which group will be targeted next in Switzerland?” is the mindset of a mental midget. Only islam bullies and targets gays, Jews, Christians and other minorities (they are referred to as infidels). They have NOT restricted a race (what race is islam again?), as muslims are as free to worship as they ever were. The whining and the threats just confirm the right path was chosen. All you hypocrites crying “foul”, pull your heads out of the sand long enough to take a look at the world around you; the spoiled child islam has been told “NO”. Of course there is going to be a temper tantrum. The imans are the last people who should be lecturing others on tolerance.
  • stuart577 posted:

    on 4th December 2009, 15:07:57 - Reply

    It is a tragic movement that wants to rid a group of persons and or believes it such hate.
    We in the World had such hate before and during the 2nd World War, in the talk of Hitler, the master race theory and the distruction of Jews, the intellectual and all others they believed would destroy their idea.
  • The Truth posted:

    on 3rd December 2009, 15:07:23 - Reply

    Lawrence: about the demographic issue. If we don't want in our country more muslims than other religions: why do we vote for governments who keep on accepting immigration from muslim countries? Why do OUR GOVERNMENTS keep on EXPLICITLY INVITING muslim immigrants fooling them with bullshit like "Europe is Eldorado please come here"?
    Why do they promote policies that make for the local people impossible to have children unless they are millionaires? (private childcare, no help for the family, privatization of education, a labor market law that in fact allows firms to fire women if they are pregnant)
    Don't you think that the problem of Islamization of Europe is caused more by European governments rather than muslim immigrants themselves? And don't you think that European nations should PREVENT a unsustainable level of immigration rather than waking up 30-40 years after and complain that there are too many muslims?
  • Mohandas posted:

    on 2nd December 2009, 22:10:40 - Reply

    German, Italian and other US 'minorities', fought in the world wars against their countries of origin because they were treated as citizens in the United States. Nobody banned german gothic style cathedrals or italian renaissance style buildings.

    If you really want immigrants to go back to where they came from, start by recalling all white people from the Americas. See how you like that. Immigration is a natural process; immigrants should not need to conform to a new culture by giving up their own values. New people and their values change society naturally. In fact, a lot of Europe is not a self developed culture and has heavy, very heavy influence from other cultures. There is no point in this ban except to symbolize fear and hate.
  • Lawrence Tassone posted:

    on 2nd December 2009, 20:04:48 - Reply

    Apologists for Islamic immigration and non-integration into western societies all have sincere sounding and humanitarian platitudes. But reality is a different matter. Go to and tell me that the Swiss weren't intelligent in trying to head off a change in their society that they, the citizens and original inhabitants don't want changed. The hard fact is that in less than 50 years, unless Europe wakes up, they will have an Islamic majority simply by birthright. The birth control pill has doomed western civiliazation as we know it and have built it up over the past 500 years. The pill and political correctness together have written the future if nation's in Europe don't soon wake up to the ticking time bomb of demographics. This has nothing to do with xenophobia and everything to do with simple numbers and cultures. Do you actually believe that a country like Germany or France or Holland could withstand the upheaval that would take place if their country's elected government were to fully commit to opposing an Islamic country in combat? I'm not talking about the token troops committed to Afghanistan under the rubric of NATO, I'm talking about full commitment? Do you honestly believe that their internal muslim minorities would pull together and support the elected government that made that decision as the German, Italian and other minorities did in the US during all of its wars including WWI and WWII against the countries their parents and grandparents immigrated from? Honestly? So if they won't they are a ticking time bomb. Remember the London riots, remember the Paris is burning riots of a few years ago? Brace yourselves, it's coming and survivors will be those intelligent enough to stop this madness before it's gone too far if it hasn't already.
  • MKadin posted:

    on 2nd December 2009, 17:09:30 - Reply

    I have noticed within these letters they ALL write of Democracy, the rule of law, "must fully integrate or leave".
    None thinks that in most democracies, governments protect the rights also of the minority. In Nazi Germany, Hitler, used democracy to his own ends, taking away little by little the rights of the Jews and eventually the laws forbid all types of dissent, conformity and integrate. In the old Soviet Russia they had "democracy", there was Only one recognized religion after Communism and previously the same others to be a Jew or others were also government discouraged they believe in conformity and integration. In China, some religions are recognized as long as they conform to the rule of law; its people integrate according to their rules.
    Agree some Islamic countries forbid the practice of exception Islam but we are not such an intolerant country are we and it it say then there are as guilty as those countries they have come from? And in many of these countries of Europe, some centuries before did not allow its citizen the practice of their religions did not allow the house of worship to be used the King also had them conform and integrate.

  • Lawrence Tassone posted:

    on 2nd December 2009, 08:55:27 - Reply

    The Swiss people have a right to cultural preservation. A large portion of their GNP comes from tourism. How many tourists come to Switzerland to see the quaint mosques with their stilleto like minerets? The Swiss have once again rejected political correctness for their own values. If you move to a country abide by their laws or leave. Integrate or leave. Find a place you are comfortable with and remain or heaven forbit go back to your country of origin. If you were born in Switzerland and are fully integrated there should be a complete understanding. Switzerland can opt for change when the major Islamic countries incorporate change in their laws first.
  • Dennis posted:

    on 1st December 2009, 21:56:05 - Reply

    Mkadin....perhaps you ought to check what democracy means. And just to punctuate it, how about if you move to Iran or perhaps Saudi Arabia and attempt to exercise your beliefs, particularly if they are in opposition to the dominant religion in those countries.

    Unless, of course, you live there already in which case you have precious little right to criticize democratic values since you are not likely to have experienced them.
  • Rick K. posted:

    on 1st December 2009, 21:44:00 - Reply

    When a country is built on democracy (rule by the people --from the ancient greek) the people decide what they feel is best. Let me say it again....the people. Whether the world thinks it is right or wrong, the people have spoken. This isn't one crazy person in Parliament speaking, but a majority vote by the people of Switzerland on something to do with their own country. Swiss people of traditionally Christian faith in country founded in 1291 have a right to protect what they feel are their core values. Call them xenophobic, but don't forget to check your facts when someone wants to build a Christian church in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia or any other bastion of Islam. They cannot have it both ways. The beauty of democracy is that if you don't like the decision, you can always move to a different country that supports your views. Telling the people of a democracy that their voice is irrelevant is so much worse than what has just been voted on in CH.
  • Mkadin posted:

    on 1st December 2009, 18:50:10 - Reply

    With Switzerland now directly in the fold of intolerance and biogtry along with our own what is next? A change in the constitution to read all one eyed purple eaters are next.
  • Dennis posted:

    on 1st December 2009, 15:12:33 - Reply

    Congratulations to the Swiss voters for expressing the will of the people. As has been said in comments on this topic, why is there a huge outcry from the media when Muslims are blocked from building minarets yet there is no outcry when Christians wish to build a church (or even worship in peace) in Muslim countries.

    The Swiss response is one that all nations should adopt, namely, immigrants must be aware of the social context of their new country and be prepared to live within its restrictions and culture....if they are not prepared to find a means to do so, the answer is easy...stay where you are or go someplace else!
  • Franklin posted:

    on 1st December 2009, 12:30:55 - Reply

    Do independent countries no longer have the right of self rule?
    Try bulding a Baptist church in Mecca and see what happens.
    Everyone has enough problems of their own without dictating to other countries how it should be.
  • Oz Expat posted:

    on 1st December 2009, 11:59:39 - Reply

    Can't help but notice the dual standards of the Muslim community. Here in 'Western' countries the cry 'foul' if any criticism comes there way but in the 'dictatorship' of Muslim countries any non-muslim is persecuted relentlessly including torture, jail, even death squads for daring to witness to their views. Even other churches, organisations or beliefs that are reluctantly 'tollerated' , providing their influence is small, are required to pay a tax to the islamic state to do so. What hypocrites they are daring to cry foul over here !
  • Gareth Williams posted:

    on 1st December 2009, 10:57:08 - Reply

    It sucks, but that's democracy for you.