Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Swiss Minaret ban: Response and Reaction

Swiss Minaret ban: Reaction and Response
from People of different colours


Dr. Mozammel Haque

The proposal to ban the building of minarets had been put forward by the Swiss People's Party, (SVP), the largest party in Parliament, which says minarets are a sign of Islamisation. More than 57% of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons - or provinces - voted in favour of the ban.

“The last surveys suggested around 34% of the Swiss population would vote for this shocking initiative. Last Friday, in a meeting organised in Lausanne, more than 800 students, professors and citizens were in no doubt that the referendum would see the motion rejected, and instead were focused on how to turn this silly initiative into a more positive future,” tracing the background, Professor Dr. Tariq Ramadan wrote in The Guardian, London, on Sunday, 29 November, 2009.
Professor Ramadan observed, “Today that confidence was shattered, as 57% of the Swiss population did as the Union Démocratique du Centre (UDC) had urged them to – a worrying sign that this Populist Party may be closest to the people’s fears and expectations. For the first time since 1893 an initiative that singles out one community, with a clear discriminatory essence, has been approved in Switzerland. One can hope that the ban will be rejected at the European level, but that makes the result no less alarming. What is happening in Switzerland, the land of my birth?”

That is the opinion and observation of no less a person than the son of the soil, a renowned scholar and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford. But, of course, he is a Muslim by religion and practice. But people of other religious faith also denounced the ban.

Religious leaders across the world have criticised Switzerland's referendum vote to ban the building of minarets. The Vatican has condemned the Swiss ban on the construction of Islamic minarets as a 'blow to freedom of religion'. The Vatican on Monday, 30 November, 2009, endorsed a statement by the conference of Swiss Bishops criticising the vote for heightening "the problems of cohabitation between religions and cultures". Muslim figureheads from Indonesia and Egypt, as well as Switzerland were denouncing the vote as a blow to religious freedom. Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa described the ban as an insult to the feelings of the Muslim community in Switzerland and elsewhere.

Not only the religious leaders of different faith groups have condemned the action, but political leaders of different countries distaste the action. The government opposed the ban, saying it would harm Switzerland's image, particularly in the Muslim world. France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was "scandalised" by the Swiss decision and said it represented a "show of intolerance.” He said it was a "negative" move because banning the construction of Muslim mosque towers amounts to "oppressing a religion".
He told France's RTL radio: "I hope that the Swiss will go back on this decision rather quickly.”

The Amnesty International said, Swiss minaret ban would be discrimination against religion. A ban on the construction of minarets would breach Switzerland’s obligations to uphold freedom of religion, Amnesty International said ahead of a referendum on Sunday 29 November 2009 on a constitutional amendment. “Contrary to the claims of the initiators of the referendum, a general prohibition of the construction of minarets would violate the right of Muslims in Switzerland to manifest their religion,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International. She also added: “A ban on the construction of minarets while, for example, allowing those of church spires would constitute discrimination on the basis of religion.”

Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims and has just four minarets. After Christianity, Islam is the most widespread religion in Switzerland, but it remains relatively hidden.

Response from Britons, Muslim and non-Muslim
Muslim groups in Switzerland and abroad condemned the vote as anti-Islamic. Irrespective of colour, ethnicity and religious affiliations, British people, from the Parliament to the leaders of the community and religious and non-religious groups and academic scholar, were united in their denunciation of the vote to ban the construction of minarets.

Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham
Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, Peer of the House of Lords of the British Parliament said, “The general consensus in the Muslim community is that the minaret ban in Switzerland is a radical, alarmist and deplorable act of Islamophobia.”

“I understand that Switzerland is party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to the European Convention on Human Rights. In my view, the Minaret Ban is a blatant breach of the civil liberties set forth in these conventions and has placed Switzerland on a collision course with its international human rights obligations,” Lord Ahmed said.

Lord Ahmed argued, “The Muslim community of Switzerland should in no way be denied the rights and facilities to practice their faith; nor should the ban be used to pursue the Swiss government’s hidden avenue of frustration with Moammar Gaddafi and the Libyan crisis. The 300,000 ordinary, practicing Muslims of Switzerland should not be made victims of the political games being waged by Switzerland against Libya.”

Lord Ahmed also observed, “The mere idea of a minaret leading to extremism reveals the clearly discriminatory bias that underpins this decision. Rather than pose a security threat, religious monuments enrich society and promote a collective identity. In contrast, the minaret ban shows the Swiss Government utilizing scare mongering tactics and playing the ‘Muslim card’ in populist political point scoring. This fans the fires of hatred and creates a needless clash of civilizations.”

“Switzerland’s actions will fundamentally influence its reputation in the eyes of Muslims around the globe. As a member of the UK Parliament and Muslim community, I stand by any decisions the greater Muslim community might make concerning withdrawal from business and banking in Switzerland,” maintained Lord Ahmed and urged the “Swiss government to review their decision as this could have long lasting consequences on your country’s relations with the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world.”

Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London
Former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, said: "The ban on minarets in Switzerland, a country that only has four minarets, is an attack not only on Muslims, but on the most basic freedoms in society.” “Let this referendum be a rallying call for all democrats - we must challenge Islamophobia and racism if we are to stop the far right,” he added.

Dr Edie Friedman, Jewish Council for Racial Equality
Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality said: “It is a very sad day when such an important religious symbol is put to the vote. That anyone should even consider this is unbelievable. This could have very dangerous consequences, sending out the wrong message to the rest of the world. Far from cementing positive relations between people, this can only sew division and disharmony. I hope that common sense prevails, this decision is reversed and building a cohesive society in Switzerland is taken up with renewed vigour.”
Bruce Kent, Vice President of Pax Christi
Bruce Kent, Vice President of Pax Christi, said: “I am dismayed at this decision which is manifestly discriminatory. As a Christian, I live in an area where we have a beautiful mosque and minaret which cause no offence to anybody and contribute to the beauty of the environment.”

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, Muslim Council of Britain
Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, said in a statement, “The Swiss referendum results show how far and how quickly Europe is moving in the wrong direction in its attitudes and policies towards Muslims and other minority groups in Europe.”
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“Mosques and minarets in our European cities are manifestations of the proudly indigenous nature of Islam in Europe. It is tragic that the far right is stripping away at our illustrious heritage of coexistence between different faiths and cultures in Europe and replacing it with their warped and xenophobic outlook,” he said and added, “This is no less than a battle of ideas for the future of a plural and progressive Europe.”

Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha, Union of Muslim Organisations
Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha, General Secretary of the Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO) of UK & Eire, said, “The British Muslims are shocked to learn that the Swiss people has expressed their hostility for such a measure. Either it is sheer ignorance or Islamophobia that the whole affair is a disgusting phenomenon. It is difficult to understand in the modern liberal atmosphere which is prevailing in the West.”

“The Swiss government should ignore this decision because it contravenes the provision of the European Convention of Human Rights to which it is a signatory,” Dr. Pasha said and added, “Succinctly; it is in the interest of Switzerland not to antagonize the religious sensibilities of 1.5 billion Muslims throughout the world.”

“The Swiss people must understand that the minarets of the Mosques are symbols of Sovereignty of Allah and the brotherhood of all human beings as enunciated in the Qur’an,” Dr. Pasha argued.

Swiss-born Professor Tariq Ramadan
Writing in The Guardian, Swiss born Professor Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford, said, “Every European country has its specific symbols or topics through which European Muslims are targeted. In France it is the headscarf or burka; in Germany, mosques; in Britain, violence; cartoons in Denmark; homosexuality in the Netherlands – and so on. It is important to look beyond these symbols and understand what is really happening in Europe in general and in Switzerland in particular: while European countries and citizens are going through a real and deep identity crisis, the new visibility of Muslims is problematic – and it is scary.”
Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, is professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University, maintained, “Over the last two decades Islam has become connected to so many controversial debates – violence, extremism, freedom of speech, gender discrimination, forced marriage, to name a few – it is difficult for ordinary citizens to embrace this new Muslim presence as a positive factor. There is a great deal of fear and a palpable mistrust. Who are they? What do they want? And the questions are charged with further suspicion as the idea of Islam being an expansionist religion is intoned. Do these people want to Islamise our country?”

According to Tariq Ramadan, the solution lies in the following, “I have been repeating for years to Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and proactive within their respective western societies. In Switzerland, over the past few months, Muslims have striven to remain hidden in order to avoid a clash. It would have been more useful to create new alliances with all these Swiss organisations and political parties that were clearly against the initiative.”

Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, is professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University. His most recent book is What I Believe



1 comment:

millmoor said...

Tariq Ramadan says Muslims are targeted for violence in Britain! There are far more attacks by enemy alien Muslims on the indiginious population than visa versa and what about the scandal of the Muslim paedophile gangs that are targeting young white girls! If this was visa versa the enemy alien Muslims would be screaming in outrage, but their silence on this issue speaks volumes. Why doesn't the killer Lord Ahmed protest on the refusal by the Saudi Arabian government to allow one single Christian church in that country!! When he goes on hadj why doesn't he raise this denial of human rights of christians with the Saudi authorities!