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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Switzerland

I remember a discussion I had with a classmate in class back in the ancient days when I was a high school student. We were discussing things only high school and college students have the time to ponder, and that day's subject was Hate.

She and others had different views of what made people hate other people as a collective group. I disagreed with all of their theses.

"Hate," I said, not entirely understanding where this came from, but quite certain to the depths of my soul about it, "comes from fear."

I have yet to see this disproved. Human beings do not hate without being first taught to fear, and hate is the reaction to that fear.

Switzerland, another European bastion of enlightened western humanism, democracy and human rights (ok, for the moment we won't talk about the stolen Holocaust assets or Nazi gold reserves or shooting Jewish refugees at the borders or turning them over to the SS.....) has voted to ban minarets.

This is one of the stupider decisions made anywhere on earth recently.

First, what does a ban on minarets accomplish?

It tells the world that you are afraid of minarets. And why would you be afraid of an architectural adornment? Because it's emblematic of Islam. And why would you want to ban a Moslem architectural adornment? Well, because you're afraid. What are you afraid of? You're afraid of Islam.

Or what your limited, parochial, impoverished and ignorant understanding of what Islam means to you.

"People's Party lawmaker Walter Wobmann said minarets are part of Muslims' strategy to make Switzerland Islamic. He said he feared Shariah law, which would create "parallel societies" where honor killings, forced marriages and even stoning are practiced."*

Oh, please......you don't already have laws in Switzerland which can address these issues? You don't already have a non-Moslem majority which can pass any law to checkmate these unlikely scenarios? There have been honor killings in the United States -- and there are laws against murder, and they are enforced when one person kills another, no matter what the label. So this is a ridiculous reason that is put forth solely to create division between Moslems and non-Moslems, and to inflame an uneasiness about demographic change into full-fledged hatred.

"The problem is not so much the minarets, but rather what they represent," said Madeleine Trincat, a retiree from Geneva. "After the minarets, the muezzins will come, then they'll ask us to wear veils and so on."*

This is the kind of garbage that the Far Right xenophobic (and antiSemitic) parties of Switzerland are pushing. That's right--let Moslems build a minaret, just like churches build bell-towers, and the next thing you know -- POOF! You'll be wearing a burkha!

The battle lines were drawn over a minaret that went on top of an Islamic cultural center in July, 2009, after a protracted court battle which pitched the local Islamic Cultural Center against neighborhood residents who opposed it.

This brought the extremists out of the woodwork: "[T]he construction of a minaret has no religious meaning. Neither in the Qur'an, nor in any other holy scripture of Islam is the minaret expressly mentioned at any rate. The minaret is far more a symbol of religious-political power claim [...]." The initiators of the ban referendum went on to justify their point of view by quoting parts of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's 1997 speech, which holds: "Mosques are our barracks, domes our helmets, minarets our bayonets, believers our soldiers. This holy army guards my religion." Inflammatory comments like this from the Islamic Republic of Turkey, or any Islamic Republic, didn't help.

Ulrich Schluer, who is one of the referendum committee’s most prominent exponents, pointed to Erdogan's speech and concluded: "A minaret has nothing to do with religion: It just symbolises a place where Islamic law is established." *

Funny, most people think that a minaret symbolizes a place where Moslems worship. Sort of like how bell-towers symbolize places where Christians worship. Shaaria law is not the law of the land, and to suggest that a minaret makes it so is disingenuous at best, xenophobic for sure.

Noise. We can't have noise! some voters said. Ridiculous. Switzerland already has mosques, including four minarets, and has noise ordinances which prohibit the muezzin calling anyone to prayer in public. So noise isn't the issue.

Building codes? There are already cantonal zoning laws which prohibit the construction of buildings that do not match their surroundings.

Fear is the issue. The campaign posters don't show a graceful spire arising out of a place of worship. It shows, instead, a battery of Islamic missiles arising out of the Swiss flag, a crude but effective message that militant Islam is going to take over your country at weapon-point.

I understand the demographic trends. I understand the cultural conflicts and lack of integration in European society. I understand the fear of more Van Goghs and Halimis, the fear of the dark underside of fundamentalists....

But this isn't the way to handle your fear, or make your Moslem neighbor more integrated. Switzerland has bell towers, church steeples. There is nothing wrong with a minaret alongside those. A minaret in your neighborhood is not going to bring burkhas and honor killings.

[Take note of Iran, the home of jihadi values, where women are demonstrating in the streets against the imposition of hardline fundamentalist strictures, as well as the lack of democracy--and these are Moslem women!]

Some common sense asserted itself prior to the vote: The cities of Basel, Lausanne and Fribourg banned the billboards, saying they painted a "racist, disrespectful and dangerous image" of Islam.*

Of course, this backfired, with subsequent posters calling for a ban of minarets because of censorship.

The EU and UN Human Rights Council (which has bankrupted all credibility by ignoring Darfur and Sri Lanka to demonize Israel) have waxed indignant over the ban, whose passage surprised everyone except perhaps the Swiss.

I live in an area surrounded by minarets. Even in a part of the world where extremists misuse them to store kassams and katyushas and manufacture suicide-bomb-belts, I am not afraid of the minaret. The minaret is emblamatic of Islam, but like the towers of Gothic cathedrals, it is an ancient architectural innovation which, while meant for utilitarian purposes, is also decorative. A mosque, while oft-times misused to engender hatred of Jews and other infidels in these politicized days, was originally intended as a place for worship and is used by most Moslems for just that. The world loves the Taj Mahal, and it is a protected world heritage site--with four minarets.

Fear extremism. Don't fear minarets. Minarets are beautiful, and even useful....I never miss Mincha now....afternoon call to prayer in Islam is the same as afternoon prayer in Judaism.

sources: *Huffington Post and Wikipedia


Anonymous Reb Barry said...

Well said! It's also worth noting that the Jewish community in Switzerland came to the support of the Muslims...having had kosher shechita banned in Switzerland, we have been caught up in the same kind of xenophobia. For a very international center, the Swiss can be very parochial at times.

Monday, December 14, 2009 at 4:42:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Batya said...

Does anyone fight the antijewish outlawing of shechita?

Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 12:58:00 PM GMT+2  

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