Swiss Minaret Ban – Multiculturalism : The Never Ending Issue

By at 30 November, 2009, 11:15 pm

Mosque in Aswan, Egypt, with minarets - Wikipedia

Mosque in Aswan, Egypt, with minarets - Wikipedia

The Minaret Ban in Switzerland has raised a religious controversy all over the world. There are voices from all over the world criticising the decision.  Where Pakistani religious groups name it as ISLAMOPHOBIA, Mufti of Egypt take a moderate approach in this regard. Where the Dutch Politician Geert Wilders overwhelmly support the decision, France, Indonesia, Vatican and amnesty international criticize it.

There are various political and religious reasons behind the decision. Austria’s Kurier suggests that one of the major reason for such a decision is the ongoing dispute with Libya. Some voters might have taken out their frustration with Moammar Gaddafi by voting to ban a symbol of the Muslim faith. The Britain’s Guardian newspaper writes of “an Alpine distrust of outsiders which lapsed into racism”.

Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung describes  the vote as one of “anger and frustration”, coming after the bank secrecy affair and the crisis with Libya. Other reasons that are suggested for the decision is the threat of dominance of the Muslims in the country.


Whereas the opponents criticize the very basis of the decision. They question the legitimacy of it. They argue that the decision is against the principles of multiculturalism and the state cannot act in a biased way. The controversy is not an alien one.

There have been issues of multiculturalism all through out the globe. The issue of L.T.T.E , the issue of Australia, allowing Sikhs to wear turban, the H1 Visa  and many others. The outlook of people is shrinking with the shrinking world. Everyone wants to preserve the best for themselves whether it is labour or resources.

The National Laws are made in a way to benefit the ethinic groups. The nations are no longer fighting with arms on the border areas but by framing laws on their own land. They supress the cultural rights of minority groups to their fulfill political ulterior motives. Most evident example is that of the Shiv Sena and its anti non-maharashtran campaign.

The plea that the islamic laws are draconian does not give power to the Swizz to infringe the rights of their citizens. It is not islam that governs the muslims of Switzerland but it is the State Law that guarantees them protection. The state cannot discriminate amongst its citizens just because they have different views. If this is done then the claim of being a civilized democratic republic nation stands abrogated.

Society is never stagnant. If it would have been I’m sure we would have never got Taj Mahal, Stupas, Pyramids and Monastries. The beauty of culture is it assimilates everything and still retains its identity.

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Categories : Social Issues | World

tony m December 12, 2009

The problem with the argument here (and in many places elsewhere) stems in the selective perspective of the left-leaning writer. The point is made that ‘draconian Islamic laws do not offer the Swizz the right to infringe the rights of their citizens of muslims’. Surely, this statement simply points to the inadequacy of the law?

Put aside for a moment the emotive matter that one side are Muslims. Let us consider any community of people, which share a broad consensus of values and have differences. That society will accept a spectrum of behaviours but set boundaries by way of cultural norms and laws. The questions for all such communities are (i) where lies the boundary and (ii) who sets the boundary?

I personally see no better way that for that boundary to be set than by the people within that community. The left protest that such a system would see the suppression of minorities, but this is weak for countless reasons: Firstly, it is hardly then a solution to take an unelected minority to enforce their own norms and boundaries instead. Secondly, there is no suppression of anyone, only an insistence to mediate behaviours that are felt offensive or anti-social within the community. We could go on. Tolerance sounds noble, but of course means that someone is being asked to tolerate something they don’t care for. The Left champion the stance that we don’t judge what people wish to tolerate and not tolerate, but protect their sensibilities. However, if this is to be upheld sincerely, then it ought to apply to all groups, including the Swiss. If tolerance is enforced, it simply becomes coercion or forced compliance.

So it is here that the Swiss decision should be re-cast: It is not anti-Muslim, but simply a community asserting the norms it wishes to see. There are no restrictions on movement of people to find other places to live, if that community does not suit them; nor are their private lives being intruded on. Had I wished to build a tower block in the Alps, I too would have been refused, despite my protests that it was a beautiful or useful thing. In another part of Europe, where the cultural values of people are different, the vote for minarets would have been undoubtedly different. That too could be a decision we celebrate. In Asia, a vote on the matter of allowing churches would clearly have been different once more. Can not all decisions be seen as positive, when the matters are the outcomes of public debates where all participate with an equal say?

To label the Swiss decision as something ‘far right’ is therefore merely name-calling from the left. The democratic Swiss decision was – in context – dead centre. It ought to be respected. My own view is, we ought see more direct democracy as a way for people to truly shape their communities to reflect their own concepts of freedom and equality. Overall, I don’t think it would affect the number of minarets we end up with, if that’s the worry.

The law should protect all equally, and in this case it has: in the case of a debate about cultural boundaries, some form of “impingement” was irrefutably inevitable. The law served to mediate fairly and reflect the consensus values on norms and boundaries.

Prabhakar Singh December 13, 2009

Tony’s arguments have bite in it. When the Babri Mosque was demolished in 1991 by the VHP and Co., and the right wing political parties avowed to bring “Ramlalaa” to his birthplace by Building Ram temple, the exercise was political and emotive. It was used as merely a tool to sensitize Hindus to build a vote bank for an extreme right wing party. When Gandhi once visited an RRS office in Maharastra he was baffled at the absence of Ram’s photo among those displayed their – Savarkar, Tilak, Dindayal Uppadhaya etc. He was told, upon enquiry, that Rama was too feminine to join the ranks of those dangling their! Now what do we make out of this? Neither Ram temple nor the causes of Hinduism were the actual concerns of those apparently leading the movement. It was only a political stunt to manufacture sympathy that would translate into electoral currency. The liberal centre parties however choose the other side of the tussle to build electoral muscle. Today, politics and culture — in its religious avataar- are opposed. A political party, gasping for political oxygen can at any point in time disrupt the cultural mosaic of a society to steer some cheap vote. The minarets ban in Switzerland is not an attack on multiculturalism. It is merely a stance of a particular nation defining the limits of the visibility of its cultural plurality. Such actions come from national conviction toward a salient model of multiculturalism and not all promises of plurality look alike. Islam, like other religions, has its internal factions. It is further subdivided into Shia, Sunnis etc. Hidden in a minarets might be the faith of a sect that might engender insecurity into the other for a race like this. Given the stress on land, environment, space and visibility, Switzerland has to be selectively accommodative to new constructions. Expecting globalisation to integrate cultures is an utopia of our false internationalism, at best globalisation should only mandate consolidation. Therefore, seeing the decision as an attack on multiculturalism springs from our misjudgement. Also important in this regard is the history of Switzerland as a nation. It is a very immigrant friendly nation and thus multiculturalism in Swiss society is way more than can we found in other societies.

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