Switzerland Bans Minarets November 30, 2009

Switzerland Bans Minarets

These are minarets:


They’re the tall spires with cone-shaped, sometimes-bulging tops often seen on mosques and other pieces of Middle Eastern architecture.

They seem harmless enough, yes?

There must be something wrong with them, though, because yesterday, they just got banned in Switzerland… via a nationwide referendum.

More than 57% of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons — or provinces — voted in favour of the ban.

The proposal had been put forward by the Swiss People’s Party, (SVP), the largest party in parliament, which says minarets are a sign of Islamisation.

It’s also worth noting that if a population-driven initiative like this one is passed, a court cannot overrule the decision.

The argument against the minarets seems to be straight-up Islamophobia — a fear of Muslims and (more specifically) extremists.

“My first reaction is one of surprise and disappointment,” Babacar Ba, the Geneva ambassador of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), told swissinfo.ch.

“It is a bad answer to a bad question. I fear that this kind of thing is simply a gift to extremism and intolerance.”

“I think we must be very vigilant in the face of the upsurge of islamophobia,” he added. “This vote is an open door to the dangerous process of calling fundamental freedoms into question.”

It doesn’t make sense to me, either. There are plenty of problems with Islam, like following Sharia law… but these are architectural flourishes are hardly going to make a difference in fixing anything. It’s not like they’re a danger to people standing underneath them, nor are they some sort of “bat signal” for terrorists. If anything, the decision just gives radical Islamists another reason to hate the Westernized world.

Oskar Freysinger, a politician who wanted this ban to pass, thinks this is all for the best:

“I would like to say to all the Muslims listening that this will in no way change their right to practise their religion, to pray or to gather [in mosques],” he said. “However, society wants to put a safeguard on the political-legal wing of Islam, for which there is no separation between state and religion.”

He’s right that the ban won’t change a Muslim’s right to practice his/her faith… but then I wonder why it was so important to get the ban at all. Also, to my knowledge, Switzerland wasn’t about to be overtaken by Fundamentalist Islamists… did I miss something here?

The entire government wasn’t in support of this ban — just one large group of politicians. But their influence was strong enough to convince most Swiss voters to make the wrong decision.

It’s also worth noting that other religious groups were against the ban as well.

The Swiss Bishops Conference is against a controversial rightwing proposal to ban minarets…

In a statement, the conference said that like church steeples, minarets marked a religion’s presence in the public domain.

The bishops said that a ban would hinder interreligious dialogue and added that the construction and operation of minarets were already regulated by Swiss building codes.

“Our request for the initiative to be rejected is based on our Christian values and the democratic principles in our country.”

I would hope atheists denounce this decision, too.

We can take a stance against religious belief and the danger of religious extremism — but while we fight for our right to have freedom from religion, we can’t forget how important it is to also be supporting freedom of religion.

Reader Gavrilo adds in an (edited) email that this may all be moot:

Switzerland already has very strict spatial planning laws, which make it so nobody can start erecting 100m tall monstrosities anywhere. Basically, this law cannot have any practical application whatsoever; it’s just a cry of anger and rejection at the face of the rising Muslim minority in Switzerland.

I worry this decision will lead the country down a slippery slope where any minority religion çan be picked on for no good reason. The rest of us need to be defending their right to practice their beliefs as they wish even if we want to denounce the entire practice in the first place.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Sean Wills

    Wait, isn’t Europe full of architectural infleunce from Middle Eastern countries? It’s been a while since I studied it, but I definitely remember it coming up when I was doing the ‘let’s import everything from “the Orient”‘ period.

  • Speaking as a -very embarrassed- Swiss citizen, I think you pretty much have it. It’s clearly the wrong decision. You are also right that Switzerland is not about to be overtaken by fundamentalist islam; the muslim community in Switzerland is small, moderate, and peaceful. It’s mistargeted: there are only four minarets in the entire country, and the vote seems to have been cast more in opposition to islamic theocracies in the world, and more locally to requests for special treatment for example for muslim girls in gymnastics class. And in fear of ‘the other’: yes, not the best of motives.
    There really isn’t an organization of atheists in Switzerland which could have condemned this. Individuals, however, did denouce it –including yours truly– and many people, religious and otherwise, did argue that from a secular perspective this was way out of line.
    I don’t need to add that these arguments didn’t carry the day…

    One small point: you are right that “if a population-driven initiative like this one is passed, a court cannot overrule the decision.” Not a Swiss court, that is. It remains to be seen whether the European court of Strasbourg could make this decision inapplicable by finding it in contradiction with the Declaration of human rights, which garantees the freedom of (and from to some degree, by the way) religion. Several groups have already declared themselves ready to test this, so we shall see…

  • Shawn

    I would like to say to all the Muslims listening that this will in no way change their right to practise their religion, to pray or to gather [in mosques],

    …as long as they realize they do it as second-class citizens.

    Great topic and a good reminder, Hemant.

  • Jerad

    It seems architecture is a gateway drug to fundamentalist terrorism. I always knew it to be so.

    Any word on whether this applies only to new buildings or will extant buildings have to remove their minarets?

    Edit: Well said Shawn!

  • However, as a response to militant Islam, it’s rather on the mild side compared with, say, militant Islam’s response to Salman Rushdie.

  • Tony

    I’m inclined to agree with this post. Banning minarets is not the answer. The shape of places of worship is unimportant. What’s important is whether the message being preached is one that is friendly or unfriendly to secularism.

    I’d rather have minarets and moderation than a minaret-less mosque preaching that their neighbours are the enemy.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    So half the people in Europe pander to radical Islam by restricting the free expression of blasphemers and the other half pander to right wing whackjobs by restricting the freedom of Muslims. So much for the delusion of European sophistication.

  • Trace

    So sad. Building codes for belfries in S. Arabia… also sad.

  • Joseph

    You can’t decide minority rights issues with referendums. Shame on you, Switzerland.

  • Claudia

    Samia, I wonder if you could clear up a question I have regarding the possible motivation behind this.

    My gut feeling when I saw that the ban had passed that this spoke more of unaddressed fears within the larger populace towards Islam generally than any particular problem with minarets specifically.

    I live in Spain, and we have a large, and growing, Muslim population. Whenever anyone voices concerns about this (or about immigration generally) they are instantly branded a racist. Political parties won’t touch the issue, except for the extreme right-wing, that grow stronger as a result. The end result is that people, resentful of their concerns not being addressed and politicians unwilling to acknowledge them, become hardened in their opinions and even less likely to be tolerant of newcomers.

    My basic question is that if you think this could also be at work in Switzerland? I think the whole matter is deplorable generally, due mostly to the fact that banning certain symbols is exactly contrary to the values that any modern society should hold dear, but I wonder how much of it comes from uncomplicated religious bigotry, and how much from longstanding political resentment.

  • I thought it ironic that every image I saw in the newspapers depicting Swiss minarets had a church spire in the background.

  • Well, I for one have been arguing very hard with the people on a Dutch news forum who immediately reacted that “now we need to do this in the Netherlands too”. Others have called this a “victory of democracy” – never mind that it’s a tragedy for human rights. It’s sad to see so many people use bad arguments like “it’s ok to bad minarets because the Muslims don’t allow us to build churches in their country either”.

    Geert Wilders (of Fitna fame) of the populist PVV has already announced that he wants a referendum like this in the Netherlands too. Judging from the responses to the news, I’m afraid there will be plenty of people who will support it. PVV is supposed to stand for “Party For Freedom”, but as usual, only wants to ban stuff.

  • However, as a response to militant Islam, it’s rather on the mild side compared with, say, militant Islam’s response to Salman Rushdie.

    Except that this hits all of Islam. And I don’t see how this can do anything against militant Islam anyway. Besides, should we let our policies be inspired by what militant Muslims would have done?

  • Adhering to any spiritual practice other than Islam is reason enough for radical Islamists to hate the Westernized world. Let’s also respect the right for a populace to exercise choice in the voting booth.

  • DreamDevil

    As long as they don’t shout prayers from them, I could give less of a shit how many they want to build.

  • PrimeNumbers

    No it can’t do much about militant Islam – it’s a symbolic response to the lack of integration of Muslim immigrants. My point is just that – the response is symbolic, rather than one which asks for harm or death towards groups or individuals.

    As for why this has happened – it’s because as soon as you rightfully criticize Islam or the actions of the militant mullahs wanting to Islamicize the whole world, you get called a racist or an Islamaphobe, and quite frankly, there’s some very strong reasons to be fearful of many Islamic practices and their overall theocratic philosophy which is inherently anti-democratic.

    If goverments try to appease Islam, all the populations see is that nothing is being done about a real problem and issue and that plays right into the hands of the far right parties who will ask for (and probably get) a much stronger response to the problem of Islamification than this Swiss symbolic response.

    We are lucky this is just a symbolic response. It could have been a “far right” solution to the problem which I don’t think anyone here would want to see – me included.

    That means we need reasoned and reasonable responses to all religious issues that threaten a peaceful, democratic, secular society. That means making sure NO religion gets special privilege and that they ALL play by the rules – Islam included.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    @Alexi — Democracy doesn’t mean that rights, such as religious freedom, can be legislated away at the whim of the voters. Certain rights must be guaranteed in a democratic system, including freedom of religion. Trust me, this is something that protects us atheists! Or should we respect the “right” of the Swiss voters if they decide to, say, restrict the rights of atheists?

  • Lost Left Coaster

    @PrimeNumbers: I agree that all religions should play by the rules, but I completely fail to see how that sentiment relates to this particular issue of banning minarets in Switzerland. I haven’t seen any allegation that Muslims in Switzerland were declining to “play by the rules”.

    Also, it would be useful to include in this discussion what role that radical Islam has played internally in Switzerland — as some commenters have noted, and as I have read this morning, the vast majority of the Muslim population in Switzerland is from the Balkans, and the government estimates that only one in ten Muslims in Switzerland even devoutly practices the religion. Not to mention that, as Hemant noted in the post, Switzerland’s architectural laws would have restricted future minaret construction anyway.

    It seems to me that the only role this vote really served as to tell Swiss Muslims that they are not really welcome there.

  • @PrimeNumbers:
    no, the response is not just symbolic, it has some pretty obvious practical consequences: Muslims can’t build minarettes anymore, no matter how well integrated they are.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Adhering to any spiritual practice other than Islam is reason enough for radical Islamists to hate the Westernized world. Let’s also respect the right for a populace to exercise choice in the voting booth.

    The essence of a functioning democratic society is the recognition of both the will of the majority and the rights of the minority. To compromise either principle is tyranny. In this case the rights of a minority to design their places of worship as they see fit (safety and engineering requirements not withstanding) has been denied by a majority. Let’s not forget that every effort to deny the right of marriage to gay people in this country has come out of a voting booth.

  • Mike Lowry

    That has to be one of the most asinine laws I have heard of in some time.

    All that it takes to subvert this is a talented architect to invent a new architectural style or feature. Any new mosque, or place of worship now gets this new feature that is decidedly not a minaret and the law is pointless. Eventually minarets and the new feature (or non feature!) will become associated with Islam.

    On the upside this utterly absurd law may become an influence for new architectural style.

  • HamsterWheel

    I like it. Let’s face it, architecture is not the real issue, the real issue is the spread of religion, and this is a symbolic yet powerful gesture presented by a free, democratic society. As we are well aware, ALL religions are primitive superstitious bullshit, and Muslims have earned a reputation for being especially oblivious to reason, logic, and fairness. The Swiss are letting everyone know that they won’t allow a primitive, barbaric ideology to flourish in their society. Good for them.

  • Revyloution

    Darwins Dagger, and a few others nailed the point. The majority should never be able to vote against the rights of a minority. That is one of the greatest ideas in the US constitution. The defense of the minority is the defense for everyone. Everyone is a part of some sort of minority. I might be a white middle class male in the US, but I’m also an atheist. That makes me acutely aware of the dangers of a majority abusing a minority.

    Real shame about the Minarets. I think the theology of Islam is just plain loony, but they do make beautiful buildings.

  • PrimeNumbers

    I don’t think the Swiss are looking at what is happening at home, but more in the way of the worldwide attitude to the spread of Islam.

    And I do think what they did is symbolic in that they’ve not said no Mosques, just that one of the symbols of the Mosque cannot be built – that they cannot literally shout their religion from the rooftops. Indeed they are probably saying to Muslims all over the world that they are not wanted. That’s not a terribly nice thing to say. But neither is issuing death threats to authors, or causing riots and violence over cartoons and faking offence to stir up trouble so much that democracies get frightened into appeasing Muslims to avoid riots and violence.

  • Polly

    The minaret on the left side reminds me of the towers of a German castle.

  • @Primenumbers: explain to me: why again should we treat the Muslims in Switzerland based on the actions of other Muslims in completely different countries?

  • Baktru

    @Hamsterwheel: Except that this is specifically aimed against Islam. There’s no new rule saying you can’t erect a new church with a belfry, is there?

    When I saw the polls on Saturday, saying there would be a 54 or so percent vote against the proposal I had an inkling what would happen. Extreme right always underscores in polls, we have enough experience of that in Belgium to know it. What the Swiss just did, is tell the muslims in their country, sod off. There are 4 minarets in the whole of Switzerlqnd now! And the call to prayer from them is not allowed in any case already.

    It also shows that democracy can have some serious issues if used wrong. I’ve heard politicians say often enough that the voter is always right. Well, no. Sometimes the voter is blinded by clever rhetorics and what not.

    Silly point in case, if you had a country where 60% are monkeys and 40% are giraffes, the monkeys could vote that everyone has to sleep up in the trees…

  • @Claudia: I think you are right. At least it very much looks like that. And this is not new. In one of the Swiss canton where most people refused this initiative yesterday, catholic churches only gained the right to build steeples in 1935. So yes there is some basic fear of ‘other groups’ there. We’ve come a short way in a short time.

    “banning certain symbols is exactly contrary to the values that any modern society should hold dear”

    It depends. A secular society can ban religious symbols from state-associated places, like classrooms for example. It’s banning them elswhere that poses a problem.

    “I wonder how much of it comes from uncomplicated religious bigotry, and how much from longstanding political resentment.”

    That’s hard to tell, because these things are hard to discuss even at the best of times, and these questions hardly arise at the best of times. To those deploring the delusion of European sophistication, let me say this: religion is not absent from Europe. It is perhaps less prevalent, but mostly it is just more confined to the private sphere. This has many upsides. Indeed, this is what state secularism is. It also has a downside however: discussion of strongly religiously charged issues in politics are difficult. They seem to ‘need’ to take place without religion being mentioned too much. And indeed, no pre-vote poll predicted the result: people simply did not vote the way they said they would. Apparently, what they thought was somehow impossible to say out loud.
    The respect afforded religion elsewhere is also very much alive here, though it may show a different face.
    So yes, probably several of people’s real concerns here went undiscussed in the campaign. And it is not at all clear that they will be addressed more directly now.

    @HamsterWheel: this would be fine if ALL religions were targeted. They are not. A group did put a mock initiative online to ban church spires, but the site makes it clear that they don’t seriously intend this. Even if they did, it would be likely to fail the popular vote and just hammer a discriminatory message home to the muslim population.

  • HamsterWheel

    Baktru, I would support a ban on ALL churches, so this is just one step in the right direction. Any particular religion is not merely a harmless form of personal expression, the world’s religions are in many respects large, powerful institutions which drag society backwards in nearly every sense: they often subjugate women, they reject science, they consistently threaten violence against any group who disagrees with them, and worst of all the fundamental premise of any religion doesn’t have any more credible, verifiable evidence to substantiate it than a children’s fairy tale book. Why would any reasonable, rational society allow such primitive barbaric nonsense to flourish around them?

  • PickledPlums


    It is true that the majority, if not the entirety, of Muslims in Switzerland are moderate. Most of them are not devout Muslims, and they have never behaved violently or indecently. Why should they be punished for what their radical counterparts do in other parts of the world?

    Because they have done and said nothing about what their people have done in the past ten or twenty years. Silence implies consent. When Israel is said to have violated human rights in Gaza, Jews in the US, Europe, and other parts of the world have publicly protested these acts, even fasting in sympathy with the people of Gaza. Why? Because even if they and their families weren’t personally involved, they are still implicitly are connected to Israel through the virtue of their cultural heritage and religion. Similarly, Americans have publicly protested the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because they are still accountable for what their government does.

    Even if the Swiss Muslims themselves have done nothing. Even if they privately disagree with what the majority of radical Islam does, they still represent Islam to their country and neighbors. It is precisely because they are doing and saying nothing in response to radical Islam that their neighbors are punishing them through this legislation.

  • and @Baktru: well, yes. Voters can be wrong, and in this case they were.

  • Nate Silver has an interesting analysis on this. It seems that (among other interesting findings) support for the ban is higher amongst Christians than atheists and agnostics.

  • David D.G.

    This is definitely a case of “democracy” consisting of two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

    ~David D.G.

  • qwertyuiop

    Good for you Switzerland.

    Set the world an example on how to preserve civilization and how to handle primitive, barbaric, intolerant ideologies.

  • @Deen, I’m not saying they should be treated based upon Muslims actions in other countries – I’m saying that it appears to be a fact that they ARE being treated based upon the behaviour of Muslims in other countries. They ARE being discriminated against because of the actions of Muslim leaders in other countries.

    And If the Swiss organized protests and burnt down embassies in countries that make jokes about Cuckoo clocks, I’d expect that the locals would ban Swiss watches and give up eating decent chocolate.

    I don’t really ever agree with banning anything. I’m not a fan of censorship at all. However, in the grand scheme of things, what the Swiss have done is utterly minor compared to the atrocities done in the name of religion. Doesn’t make it right what the Swiss do though.

    Now, the Swiss obviously feel threatened by Islam. Perhaps if goverments around the world stopped appeasing Islam, the Swiss wouldn’t feel threatened.

  • D.F.

    Though I personally don’t think the decision is a good one, let me add a few details:
    – About 53% of the people voted – this is a low turnout for Switzerland.
    – In Switzerland, we vote all the time, usually about 4 times a year with several national, cantonal and local issues on the agenda. People usually do have an idea what it’s about.
    – Most muslims are well integrated and not very religious (with a rate of regular ‘churchgoers’ of about 15%).
    – In everyday life, religion is not much of a topic. Usually you wouldn’t know the religion of your colleague, and neither do you care much. Including muslims.
    – There are no violent conflicts, no religiously inspired attacks or special discimination against muslims in particular.

    – There are, however, a few things the Swiss are rather allergic to.
    One of them is asking for special treatment. We had a few such cases, when parents asked that their kids do not have to participate in excursions, sports or compulsory swimming classes (eg. a father didn’t want to let his two small boys go to swimming class).
    (Also, no homeschooling for Christian kids – you would get a huge fine.)

    Another one is being loud in general, and especially being loud about your religion (‘loud’ Christians are frowned upon, too, so it’s not particularly about muslims).
    Having a guy shouting from a tower to get people down on their knees to pray certainly does hit this particular point.
    (By the way, we also have an NGO lobbying for limiting the use of church bells.)

    As a conclusion, you will get closer to the truth (and the mentality of the Swiss) if you consider this to be basically a statement against “being loud” about your religion, whether by having guys screaming from rooftops or having women wrapped up in “modest” clothes, or by not letting your kids participate freely in the school community.

  • Claudia

    “banning certain symbols is exactly contrary to the values that any modern society should hold dear”

    It depends. A secular society can ban religious symbols from state-associated places, like classrooms for example. It’s banning them elswhere that poses a problem.

    Absolutely true and I should have been more specific in my comment. My general belief is that freedom of expression is one of the base pillars of modern society. As such, governments should limit as much as is possible and practical restrictions on it. Where restrictions are necessary (like, as you mention, government property), then wherever possible it should restrict all religions equally. Like France; If you’re going to restrict the Hijab, you have to restrict Crucifixes. If Switzerland wants no new minarets, then they should have no new steeples.

  • Claudia, I knew we agreed on this, but at bottom line this is precisely one of the distinctions public opinion failed to make. It does seem as though differences on religion on the one hand, and differences on the rules applying to religion in the public sphere on the other hand, have been completely mixed up. In fear of ‘minarets as a symbol for muslim intrusion in politics’, our voters have introduced a law that theocracies would be completely confortable with.

    This is a case of how much democracy we should have on the rules of democracy…

  • Ben

    The only way I’d be in agreement with such a law is if it was a height restriction which applied equally to all religious and non-religious institutions. While I can understand the misconceptions people would have seeing tall spires popping up all over their skyline (making them more prominent than perhaps they deserve), singling out one religion is unfair.

  • Alz

    I think their fear is justified. What happens when Islam tips into the majority? Freedom and democracy get shut down, permanently.. and it will never, ever, come back. Islam is designed to do that.
    We will see it soon in some European countries.

  • Kimpatsu

    This is really about immigration. The message encoded in the minaret ban is “Don’t immigrate to Switzerland”. This is the usual guff about being “overrun” and losing Swiss “cultural heritage”. IOW, it’s based on a mistaken conflation between race (which is heritable) and religion (which one is free to choose).

  • Anonymouse

    Serves them right, these Moslems are the same or even worse when they are in the majority.

    Christian intolerance at its finest.

    I thought the Western world has outgrown this, apparently not.

    In the end it’s just the Medieval/Religious mindset vs. the 21st century worldview.

  • It’s not about the buildings, in all honesty I’d vote against too unless the government gives very good assurances that there would be no noise pollution, and I’d vote against church bells and Japanese temple bells, dancings, pubs etc.
    If the people were assured that those buildings would fall under the same rules for noise regulation as all other organizations I’m inclined to think the vote could go differently, having been in a hospital with a church right next to it being woken up by bells at 8am just when our daughter started her first sleep (if it was a dancing hall it would have been closed long ago) I really dislike the fact that religious organizations get exemptions from laws that should cover everyone equally!
    I hope this vote will put things on the table and reverse another small exemption religions enjoy unjustly.

  • No one’s downplaying the right to religious or sexual freedom here. Religulous-minded folks don’t need Minaret(s) to pray. Just as homosexuals don’t need legally binding documentation to copulate. I’ll support any legislation necessary to keep personal choice behind closed doors where it belongs. I think that’s fair for everyone involved in a Democracy as opposed to, say, frivolous lawsuit(s) till you get your way.

  • And yes, I’d be the first to ban “noise pollution” and make it apply to lots of things, including all calls to prayer than can be heard beyond the property line of the religious building in question. I live near a church and I have to put up with their bell’s noise pollution.

  • DSimon

    I’m ashamed to see a country so well-known for being secular doing such a stupid, bigoted thing.

  • Polly

    I’m ashamed to see a country so well-known for being secular doing such a stupid, bigoted thing.

    Really? I posted this on another site recently, and I’ll mention it here. Switzerland only gave the right to vote to women as recently as 1971 – and there was significant opposition.

  • P schwartz

    I once believed secularism and reason could “save” the world, that discarding silly notions of the divine would rid us of our conceits and squabbles. Unfortunately, such a naive view overlooks the basics of human nature and how religion is not only an inevitable aspect of man, but that religious misbehavior only reflects the deeper “original sin” of man’s inherent composition. Thus, the chimera of “religion as all evil” obscures that man is an irrevocably broken entity.

    The average atheist dismisses religion and as religion generally underpins conservatism, he usually accepts the injurious maxims of modern liberalism. He is then beholden to tolerance and democracy as the preeminent values. While I agree that these principles represent a fair and equitable manner of living, they can’t be applied in all instances. Occasionally, if warranted, a country or government can ignore these edicts in order to motivate some practical benefit.

    But the liberal atheist, his judgment clouded by a pseudo-faith in leftist politics and the doctrine of unfettered tolerance, can’t mount an opposition even in the worst of circumstances. In the end, it’s actually the atheists that allow religion to fester and to intrude where it’s unwelcome. The atheist blogosphere doesn’t realize that the minaret ban expresses disdain and a clear warning to an alien, harmful, and unjust religion-based culture. It’s a wonderful manifestation of the militant atheism espoused by Dawkins.

    Further, the overarching liberalism pervading structured atheism affords members of a minority religion, such as Islam, the “protected minority” treatment. Any condemnation of Islam isn’t a result of real-world events or rational discourse, but rather a reflection of bias and intolerance. Thus Islam, a force responsible for this and this, is dismissed as the quaint beliefs of a poor and oppressed minority, like voodoo but with scarves and nifty hats.

    Are tolerance and freedom of speech rights to be protected? Of course and I wouldn’t choose to live in a country that didn’t hold up these ideals. But when an overtly anti-Western group attempts to impose its own norms and morals on the West, then should one sit by idly as the culture and country crumble? No, yet the atheists, ironically, will allow Islam and its deleterious forces to spread throughout the West. Good luck having freedom of speech in that world!

  • eh

    Do you live in Switzerland? Or any European country with a significant muslim population? You have to be pretty naive to believe this was just about minarets, or “Islamaphobia”. I’m sure the Swiss voted for the ban because they see the on-the-ground reality of muslim immigration every day: disproportionate criminality, and academic and economic underachievement. In other words, muslims form an ethnically distinct underclass in Switzerland, exactly as they do in every other European country where there’s a significant population. (The US has its own experience with that kind of social pathology, right?) The Swiss see this in their own country, and they know it is even worse in other European countries, e.g. France. And they don’t want it to get worse in their country. So they grasped at this straw and voted to ban minarets, when most of them would really like to do a lot more, e.g. stop muslim immigration altogether. Try to imagine the shitstorm that would unleash.

  • Monkey’s Uncle

    IIRC, minarets are for calling people to prayer, so they would have someone on top singing or some kind of PA system to broadcast incantations and some such…between that and church bells, Hare Krishnas and the church of scientology shouting about free personality tests on the streets, where does it all stop?
    I can’t believe that atheists on this blog, including unfortunately Mr Mehta, pulls out the misguided canard of ‘Islamophobia’ to all in pursuit of a little common sense. That is a word bandied about far too much and misused frequently. It is not fear of Islam that would make me vote ‘no’ against the building of these minarets, it is the desire to help stop even more widespread religious following. A lame argument it may be, but have you considered what would happen to you if you tried to open an Atheists meeting hall in Saudi Arabia, with a PA declaring to all in loud tones of your godlessness?
    I live in london, and I revel in this cities’ multiculturalism, that being said lots of sensible britons want a little less of bowing to any more religious sects trying to impose their choice of lifestyle on everybody else..although if we object we are labelled ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’. If a vote was carried out here I would vote no, just as I would vote no to more churches, synagogues, mosques etc.
    That does not make me ‘racist’ or intolerent, I am just fed up with not hearing rational voices in this sort of debate. If not agreeing to everyone’s religious demands makes me an UNfriendly atheist, than I am afraid that is what I am.

  • Brian Macker

    I don’t know how harmless minarets are, if they were mere decoration it wouldn’t be a problem, however they are used to call people to meetings where they are indoctrinated to believe in the persecution and subjugation of others.

  • Polly


  • haggis

    Has anyone of you thought that this is a great opportunity for the Muslim community to show that they can live together with others? By publicly announcing that they accept the law they show that they don’t support fundamentalism and are ready to co-operate against it. It would probably decrease the fears that other Europeans have for Muslims and maybe stop the growth of intolerant movements.

    It would be bad to reverse the law now since reversing it would just increase bitterness and intolerance towards Muslims.

  • Where to start?

    Let me be clear: Islam is undoubtedly the most dangerous religion in the world, and we’d all be better off if it vanished from the face of the earth. The Qur’an is a nasty book, and the many Muslims who take it seriously have no place in a civilized society.

    That being said, many if not most Muslims ignore the nastiest parts of the Qur’an, and thus manage to get along quite well in secular, Western democracies. To punish them for the crimes of their fellows is pretty much the definition of bigotry.

  • Islam Means Peace

    You missed out one important part – it was and still a historical fact that Islam was flourishing in all aspects of life…be it politics, science, art etc when the whole of europe was in the ‘Dark Ages’ ! That was until the muslim became complacent and forgot to follow the holy book and went ‘secular’ which does not even come close to providing solution in all aspects of life. For your info, muslims are never taught to be offensive to other religions or other forms of life for that matter. Hatred is cancerous and will only bring misery to yourself, but to gain knowledge through reading and understanding is the best solution in your regard.

  • Islam Means peace

    Muslims are taught to follow the rules & regulation of the country they live in as long as they are allowed to perform their religious duties. for your info, minarets are not really big deal – it is a religious symbol of course but more pratical to call out people to prayer. The first mosque built by prophet Mohammed didn’t have any minaret. It was later added for its functional purpose. By the same token, the dome was not invented by the muslims but was a borrowed structural form for its congregational practicality. By the way, tolerance towards other religions is also prescribed by islam to its followers – if they are the true followers.

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