Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Ban on Minarets? In Switzerland?

When you think of Switzerland, as we call it, I would hardly expect the words “religious intolerance” to come up anytime soon.

Not before say, the Red Cross, the World Health Organization, The League of Nations, military neutrality and the Swiss army knife.

So it came as a surprise to me today to find that Switzerland has just voted on, and passed, an amendment to its constitution banning the construction of minarets. Minarets are those tall tapered towers upon which the muezzin stands to lead the call to Friday services or to the 5 daily prayers. So you might think that this was just a public nuisance issue, you know, like the ringing of church bells. But it wasn’t because the call to prayer in Switzerland is done inside the mosque.

I read about it here in this AP article in The Chron:

“The referendum by the nationalist Swiss People's Party labeled minarets as symbols of rising Muslim political power that could one day transform Switzerland into an Islamic nation. The initiative was approved 57.5 to 42.5 percent by some 2.67 million voters. Only four of the 26 cantons or states opposed the initiative, granting the double approval that makes it part of the Swiss constitution.”
The really odd thing is that in poll after poll the measure was seen as destined to failure because only 37% of the people polled said that they would vote for the amendment. It is as if the other 20% were fully aware of how intolerant this measure was, and therefore how intolerant the voters were, that they would vote for it, but not advertise that fact.

That is something that is so over the top it even beats Texas voters. Your typical Texas voter will turn out in droves to vote for a discriminatory constitutional amendment like the banning of gay marriage. They’ll go and vote for it and then brag about it to their neighbors.

So I find it ironic that from now on when I am reminded of Switzerland, before I think of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, or of “Heidi” or the William Tell Overture, the first thing that will come to mind is anti-Muslim intolerance.

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