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The European minarets
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-12-02 07:39:14
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Now this whole case with the Swiss minarets is pretty confusing and to my opinion mirrors the tolerance situation in all Europe. The Swiss political system is one of the most democratic in the entire world; the people have actual part in all the major decisions regarding national and foreign policy of the state through referendums. And I presume a lot of nations feel envy for that, you just have to look the reactions in UK two months ago when Gordon Brown signed the Lisbon Treaty.

So this time the referendum was about the construction of minarets in Switzerland and the decision was a huge no, actually over 57% of the Swiss voters and 22 out of the 26 cantons voted for the ban of construction. And since the majority voted no everybody should be obliged to accept the decision. Well, not exactly and this is where the whole confusion starts. You see the Swiss people have every right to decide what is good and what is not good for their country bit what happens when this decision provokes the international community. You see the Swiss people like it or not they live in a world were decision in the one part of the globe influence reactions in the other side and in this case it is literal with a lot of Islamic countries already reacting to this result.

So do Swiss people lack tolerances, have they become a xenophobic nation or better an islamophobic nation? The funny thing with this case is that Switzerland has shown far more tolerance to immigration especially compared for example with some European nations especially the latest east European members. Or the Swiss people actually mirror the Islamophobia that has hit the west in this new Bin Laden era? Did the Swiss actually said exactly what the average European or American feels and the long time Islamophobia found the terrorist hits as the long waiting excuse to surface?

Too many questions but I have the feeling that the truth is hiding somewhere in all of them. The last few years the most common talk inside the west is security and immigration sometimes crossing the lines of xenophobia and prejudice even from states that have shown every sense of tolerance the last decades. Suddenly the screams of the few extremists of the right have become so loud that cover the thoughts of every sensible person. And yes Islamophobia is not something new for the west; a west where Christianity dominates for centuries and Islam looked always as the enemy. What has changed the last two centuries at least is the enlighten of Christianity’s leadership which shown more tolerance even moved one step forward to organize summits for the talk between the religions. Otherwise through history the prejudice towards Islam can be compared only with the lack of tolerance towards the Jews.

So do the Swiss people lack of tolerance and they have become people full of fear? I think not, I think the Swiss extreme right didn’t become in one night the most powerful political philosophy in Switzerland like I didn’t believe a year ago that the Irish people became the most anti-European people in EU. I think that yes the European are scared but the sates have failed to make the understand. Have failed to make them understand that the enemy is a few extremists who use Islam as an ideological umbrella for their crimes and not Islam itself. The Swiss people and in extent the Europeans have to understand or better remember that we have done the same lethal mistakes just half a century ago and we still pay with guilt. Prejudice has no room in Europe and that’s something we know better than any other place in this world.

And then I have to admit I was not surprised when I read that many considered the outcome of this referendum very risky for the safety of the Swiss people calling the bells of terrorism and Bin Laden. And this is the sad thing. Bin Laden has somehow won. Every time we do something that brings reaction from the Islamic nations Bin Laden succeeds one more victory and believe me this worst then the hundreds dead of the 9-11.

Is sad but reading about the Swiss referendum and all the things around it, feeling the fear all this has brought upon us I hate Bin Laden and all this extremism I get more angry. I get angrier for what we have become because of him and his acts. I hate him for making me hate him, and this is what we must cure first and this is something the Swiss people definitely understand, they just expressed it the wrong way. You see before condemning them we have to understand them and make them understand. And this applies not all to the Swiss people but to all the world, west and east, Christian and Muslim, with or without minarets.

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Joe2009-12-02 10:59:17
I thought minarets were a type of cheerleading team...

Emanuel Paparella2009-12-02 23:49:36
One has to wonder here if the Swiss and indeed the Europeans, or Newropeans as the case may be, are haunted by the thought that what the Moslems could not conquer in Western Europe on the battle field, they may end up conquering spiritually by filling the spiritual vacuum of European nihilism and bias against religion in general.

Of course the democratic will of people in a referendum has to be respected. What I find intriguing however, in this phenomenon is its rationale: the forbidding of the religious symbolism of the minaret which is equivalent in Christianity to that of a church’s steeple and bell. The symbolism is a powerful one and explains why as soon as the Moslems conquered Constantinople they transformed the Hagia Sophia, considered the most imposing and beautiful Church in Christendom at the time (built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian), into a mosque by adding minarets to it.

Those were times when faith and belief were taken very seriously. Pari passu, in Switzerland, so close to Austria who was almost overrun by the Moslems, the minaret cannot but be a powerful reminder of another culture. However, while the 15th century Moslems added the minaret out of religious convictions which were just as powerful as those of European Christians, the modern Swiss, inheritors of a rather intolerant orthodox Calvinism but no longer very religious, may have done so out of cultural xenophobia, it seems to me, since Christianity for many of them has become a rather meaningless and empty spiritual reality. That is to say, they want the cake and eat it too: they wish to declare religion meaningless, a superstition, neutral at best, but then wish to claim their traditional Christianity vis a vis Islam and forbid minarets. One is left wondering.

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