Switzerland Bans Minarets

Just as we were thinking the Texas ban on unions “identical…to marriage” and the Ugandan proposal to severely punish homosexuals were the loony tunes of the moment, here comes a Swiss miss: A right wing proposal to ban minarets in Switzerland, put to the people in a referendum, was a few minutes ago approved by “a majority of the Swiss people and the cantons . . .”

According to an announcement on the Federal Chancellery website:

The Federal Council respects this decision. Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted. The four existing minarets will remain. It will also be possible to continue to construct mosques. Muslims in Switzerland are able to practise their religion alone or in community with others, and live according to their beliefs just as before.

According to news stories such as this one from Al Jazeera English, the federal government was hoping — expecting, in fact — that the initiative would fail.

Cuckoo clocks and now this daft and cuckoo law.


  1. hmmm … so if Switzerland annexes Canada, and applies its laws to us (pace UBS Bank) the CN Tower couldn’t be used as a minaret, since it currently isn’t one.

    Now that I think of it, if cast that bit of legislation as a provision dealing with zoning, it might pass in Ontario – at least so long as all did was limit the minaret in height.

    Kidding aside, I wonder how the Switz. authorities are going to determine what is an offending minaret, and what isn’t. After all, all a minaret is (quoting from dictionary.com)is “A tall slender tower attached to a mosque, having one or more projecting balconies from which a muezzin summons the people to prayer.”

    A rose by any other name?

  2. My impression in some Muslim countries I have visited is that call to brayer was being broadcast in the streets from loudspeakers that were not necessarily attached directly to the mosques, though no doubt controlled from the mosques. So would a telephone pole with a loudspeaker attached be banned as a minaret? What about a loudspeaker – or a live muezzin – perched on the edge of a flat roof?

    It’s not clear to me if the nuisance aimed at by the ban is the noise, the land/cityscape or the practice of religion? Only the second is likely to be affected. Minarets can be as pretty as spires.

    This kind of thing just fuels sales and sympathies for Mssrs Dawkins, Hitchens and the like.

  3. nasty and racist if you ask me.

  4. I am Swiss so perhaps I can answer a few questions.
    The ban is not about the noise generated by the call to prayer. In fact, the call to prayer is already banned.

    The issue for many people who voted in favor of the ban is the violence associated to Islam. It is important to understand that this is not about favoring Christianity, but it is in fact targeted specifically at Islam.

    Few people in Switzerland believe all Muslims are terrorists. Those who voted for the ban know it too.
    The main problem Swiss people have with Islam is the fact that Islam is disorganized: Peaceful Muslims and extremists identify themselves to the same group and attend the same Mosques.

    Simply put, the problem of extremism is corrupting Islam from the inside, and Islam has to tackle it somehow.

    Unfortunately, it seems to the majority of non-Muslims that Islam is ignoring the problem and is denying it’s responsibility to face it by saying “These Muslims do not practice Islam the right way, they have nothing to do with us”.

    Last night, I read about the attempted decapitation of the Canadian Prime Minister and killing many more people with bombs in 2006 by Islamic terrorists.
    What struck me was the fact that 12% of Muslims in Canada at the time reported they felt the attacks were justified. The media passed this as a small number, when in fact this meant 84000 people in Canada supported the attack.

    The Swiss people do not want this. They do not want thousands of extremists feeling at home in Switzerland. Banning the minarets was mostly a message sent to Islam saying “We’re not kicking you out, but we are not ready to accept you completely right now. Please take care of the problems in your religion”.

    I am very confident that the Swiss people would reverse their decisions in several years if Islam kicks extremists out of it’s ranks somehow (perhaps Islam should look at Protestants when they separated from the Catholic Church because of major disagreements).
    If the problem was just xenophobia, then other religions would had been targeted, and only Christian religions would had been spared.

    Another problem is the minarets themselves:
    Extremists see them as a symbol of conquest. Some people in Switzerland feared minarets would make extremists feel comfortable in Switzerland, leading them to actively promote violence (such as the infamous protests in the U.K. where Muslim extremist protesters held signs saying “Death to infidels”).

    Another fear was that if minarets became more numerous, extremists may consider Switzerland as a territory conquered by Islam, and may attempt to reclaim it by acts of violence. I don’t think anybody feared an open war, but it’s reasonable one or two bombings could occur.

    Lastly, the reason why Muslims wanted minarets (4 are already built in the country) was bothering people.
    Minarets are not mandatory according to the Qur’an.
    In fact, the very first minaret was built several centuries (I think I read 1000 years) after the creation of Islam, and minarets were only built when they were necessary to call people for prayer. When other means of calling people were available, minarets were not built.
    Perhaps minarets have become part of a tradition, but a mosque without a minaret is not breaking the rules of Islam.
    So if minarets are supposed to be built only to call people for prayer, and doing so is forbidden by the law in Switzerland because of the inconvenience of the noise, then why do some Mosques build them anyway?
    Swiss people probably feared Muslims were planning to push for laws benefiting their religion, such as a law allowing calling for prayer.

    So here are the main reasons why most of the people voted to ban minarets did so. Using racism as an explanation is just too easy.

    I would like to finish with this:
    Religion and personal beliefs are two different things. Personal beliefs are what people believe in. Religion is an organization to which people of similar beliefs belong.
    Banning minarets puts a stop to religion, but it does not put a stop to beliefs.
    People in Switzerland are still free to be Muslim, and they are not persecuted for being Muslim. They are free to keep their beliefs.
    However, their religion has been put a limit.

    I would also like to say that while I think personal beliefs should be respected, it should be possible to openly criticize religions.
    Religions tell people what to think and how to live. They promote themselves to the public by building symbolic buildings, or by advertising. Therefore, they should be open to criticism.

    Racism is wrong, because race does not make people good or bad.
    Religion however is an ideology, a lifestyle, a set of values… This is precisely what makes humans good or bad.
    Religions influence the world.
    In politics, many people are religiously motivated when voting.
    In everyday life, some people commit violence for religious motivations.
    It is very fair to criticize religions. It is unfair for religions to ask us to tolerate them because they are religions.

    If it is fair to criticize political parties or how people vote, then I don’t see why a religion and the values and lifestyle it promotes can not be criticized.

  5. By far the majority of Muslims in the world live in tolerant Islamic countries like Malaysia, India, and Indonesia.
    The intolerant Islamic countries are those propped up by the West – Saudi Arabia, Egypt etc..
    So the Swiss have just given a kick in the teeth for over a billion secular Muslims worldwide whose feelings are now bound to be hurt –
    If the Swiss really wanted to fight bad practices then they should not help the dictators of the world to hide and stash away the billions looted from the poor that is profit from money stolen from the impoverished.
    There are only four Minarets in Switzerland catering for 400,000 Muslims (mostly European and Turkish) who are secular and peace loving.
    Concentrate, you good and honest Swiss folk not on phoney issues like Minarets but big ones like passing a law banning your banks helping Tax evaders from every country in the world, including Great Britain.

  6. I used to observe that most bad drivers were hairy males — now, I’m not so sure, the drivers who have most recently tried to kill me have all been female. It did not matter whether the male had long hair, a moustache or a beard; the volume of hair alone was enough to mark the bad driver. If we were to adopt the Swiss approach to controlling bad conduct on the roads, we wouldn’t need RIDE stops; we’d just have barber stops where the hairy males would be shaved or have their hair cut.

  7. [Comments are closed on this entry. The comments we have received would take the discussion into areas that are not germane to this weblog. Other forums would be more appropriate.]