In case you happen to live in under an abode commonly referred to as a “rock” then you are well aware of a major vote which took place yesterday in Switzerland. Following months of controversial campaigning, a strong 57% of Swiss voted to ban Muslims from constructing minarets on their mosques. The vote comes amidst a campaign which claimed that minarets were representative of the slow domination of European society by militant Islam.
Yes. Architectural formations are also a threat to freedom, apparently.
Interestingly enough, the government itself is against the ban. Given the direct democratic nature of the country (here’s a great post from Kabobfest about that), however, it is forced to respect the decision of 57% of the Swiss who agree with the conservative nationalist Swiss People’s Party that minarets are certainly a sign of the impending Islamist takeover.
This is why I don’t vote.
I’m not going to lie. I’m concerned. I’m extremely concerned. This recent vote falls within the growing trend around an increasingly antagonistic and laced with irrational fear European (particularly Northern European) attitude towards immigrants (i.e. primarily Muslims and Arabs), a trend noted earlier this year in the EU parliament elections about which I wrote in a Kabobfest post as well as the French discussion on the banning of a rarely-worn burqa amongst several other instances.
What worries me in particular about this vote is the precedent it sets and the ridiculous characterization of militancy it subscribes to something which is in fact rather innocent.
Defenders of the ban claim that it it not something which seeks to limit Muslims from practicing their religion, but rather is meant to control the violent political imagery which is associated with it. How is a minaret, an architectural formation found upon the top of a dome of a mosque (four in total in Switzerland and yes they’ll be allowed to keep their precious minarets) a symbol of militantism? And if something as harmless as a minaret can be seen as militant, what about the hijab? The length of beard? Non-Western Clothing worn outside? Non-English/German/French words scrawled on store signs? Halaal food stores? Where is the line drawn? What is the criteria set forth to define the militancy of objects? Is it possible for something to be a representation of Islam without being seen as a political statement nowadays?
Let’s not kid ourselves. This vote was not meant to push back any threat. It was meant to assert hegemony over a large minority population which makes up the second largest religion in the country. This vote was meant to intimidate this population, amongst others, to show them who is in fact in charge. A friend on Twitter perhaps said it well when he said: “if it was in a non-Western country, there would be furore. They make racism seem so “civilized” with a referendum.”
This in turn brings up the point of relativism which is always brought up in light of such occurrences. I am well aware of the oppression which exists in Arab and Muslim countries of minority populations; it is undoubtedly ridiculous and unjust. But oppression and tyranny are not about comparison and it’s time we move beyond this argument to which conversation always seems to be reduced. Too many supporters of the ban are resorting to the age-old “well in Muslim countries…” line. Get over it, move on.
(Un)Fortunately, it’s not over. This ban has not only prompted voices of support from various world leaders and officials, it has also merited some condemnations – perhaps the biggest being from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Asma Jahangir who believes that this is in violation of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which the Swiss had ratified. There is also talk about the issue being taken to the European Court of Human Rights, by the Swiss Green Party and other groups who wish to appeal the ban.
But reversing or appealing the law should not be the primary concern at this point. That 57% should be. How is it that 57% of the Swiss population agrees that minarets (again, existent on four mosques in total across the country) are a symbol of militancy? How is it that 57% of the Swiss population see their Muslim countrymen and women as potential militants slowly taking over their country, their continent, their way of life and religion? What does this say not only about the direction the Swiss have decided to take their country but also the direction Europe itself is going? The problem here is far bigger than a ban. It’s a lot bigger than architectural formations. It’s about an irrationality which has seemingly gripped millions in Europe; low ethnic-European birth rates and increasing immigration can only ever equal the complete destruction of Europe. Eurabia is on the horizons. And we should be concerned about where this rationalized irrationality can take us. What else will be banned? What else will become a threat? What else will symbolize militancy?
Additionally, what effect does this have on the Muslim population of Switzerland? Of Europe? I mean, what better to “radicalize” individuals than to assert racist hegemony and marginalize them, right? Awesome.
Until things sort themselves out – if they ever do and whatever that means – I’m going to avoid chocolates, army knives, banks and neutrality for awhile.