Monday, November 30, 2009

Swiss Pleas: Minaret-y Rights

It was dismaying to see a demagogic and bigoted proposal win out in Switzerland, as 57% of voters approved a ban on the construction of minarets.

Harry's Place offers an early take on this, including an analysis of the shockingly bigoted message behind some of the pro-referendum posters, which depicted, among other things, a veiled woman and a forest of minarets covering the Swiss flag; white sheep on a Swiss flag kicking out a black sheep; and black ravens tearing apart a map of Switzerland:
Although the vote no doubt reflects fears of extremism to some extent, it is also quite obviously also intended to be a “rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture”. There is nothing intrinsically offensive about mosque architecture. Minarets do not symbolise the politics of Al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood. . . . .
This is a moment of disgrace for Switzerland. As the opposition campaign points out, this is the sort of attack on religious minorities, on the principle of freedom of religious expression – quite innocuous, architectural expression – that you would expect to see in a totalitarian state.
It concludes, "Ordinary Swiss Muslims are paying the price of this battle between extremists."

LGF puts it even more succinctly: "Switzerland, the country that let everyone else in Europe do their fighting for them in World War II and turned Jews over to the Nazis to save their own skins, has now banned minarets."

What a disgrace—and a warning.

Coming not so long after Thanksgiving, the vote—and indeed, the mere fact that such a referendum cold end up on the ballot— reminds me of what I'm thankful for: a Bill of Rights, to start with.

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