On Architectural Criticism
November 29, 2009 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Swiss voters moonlight as architecture critics. The construction of minarets in Switzerland is now forbidden, with 57% in favor of the ban, freezing the number in the country at four, with one under construction.

The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) (previously) put the initiative forward, advertising with posters, seemingly equating minarets with missles, that were banned as racist in Basel and cities in Vaud, neither canton of which voted in favor. The Swiss government (Federal Council) and Parliament (in German) were opposed.

A ban on minaret construction will be added to Article 72 of the Swiss Federal Constitution (pdf), which presently delegates all matters of church and state and to the cantons, aside from the responsibility to "preserve public peace between the members of different religious communities".

Switzerland's largest city, Zürich, has one minaret, which has not to date been the focus of much controversy. Perhaps it is difficult to appear aggressive while being dwarfed by the church across the street?
posted by Vetinari (270 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches? No. Is that FPP-worthy?
posted by codswallop at 8:49 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


"it's not a minaret" - *holds up little dinner bell on table* - "it's a campanile"
posted by pyramid termite at 8:52 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pathetic. Shame on the Swiss. Even if they sincerely feel concern over culture and religion in their country, how the hell does banning the construction of minarets resolve this?

Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches? No. Is that FPP-worthy?

False argument. This is not an Christian-Islam fight (they do it too!), but a question of how liberal secular countries deal with minorities. The standard against which we judge this is our own political beliefs, and not the actions of other cultures.
posted by Sova at 8:54 AM on November 29, 2009 [77 favorites]


Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches? No. Is that FPP-worthy?

You don't get it. I want to demonstrate how culturally sensitive and against racism I am. How can I do that if I admit that your double standard applies?
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:54 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fuck yeah, Switzerland!
posted by smackwich at 8:56 AM on November 29, 2009


This reminds me of some of the laws passed at the end of the Gold Rush to push Chinese out: "You cannot have a laundry business in a wooden building" etc.

It's not just the racism, it's the cowardice in trying to code it in other issues that makes it twice as bullshit.
posted by yeloson at 8:57 AM on November 29, 2009 [24 favorites]


Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches? No. Is that FPP-worthy?

Your argument appears to be that as long as we're not worse than repressive theocratic dictatorships, everything's OK. I think we can be a bit more ambitious than that.
posted by athenian at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2009 [44 favorites]


I think minarets are beautiful.
posted by fire&wings at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


But the church tower across the street has a CLOCK, facing FOUR DIRECTIONS! Why are minarets educated stupid? Do they deny the four simultaneous corners and directions of the cube?
posted by Balisong at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2009 [15 favorites]


Fuck yeah, Switzerland!

I sincerely hope you're being sarcastic.
posted by kylej at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2009


Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches? No.

What makes you say that? Can you give some evidence for Islamic countries banning the construction of christian churches? It would be very unusual since Muslims view Christians as believing in the same god, that Jesus was a prophet like Muhammad, etc. Not to mention lots of Christians live in majority Muslim countries and always have.

(Now buddah statues on the other hand.)
posted by delmoi at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and there are plenty of Muslim countries where there are also Christian churches - Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, just off the top of my head think you asked. It's only the fundies who don't allow them.
posted by athenian at 9:03 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


^since you asked. Damn.
posted by athenian at 9:03 AM on November 29, 2009


They should come to a compromise by raising a statue of mohammed.
posted by the cuban at 9:06 AM on November 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


Architecturally, Minaretes are very cool. Culturally, if you don't buy in to five prayers a day, they are extremely obnoxious.

This seems like a clear message that the public practice of Islam isn't welcome welcome in Switzerland. Clearly this is an issue of culture, though there may also be underlying issues of race.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:07 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll second smackwich's sentiment - "Fuck yeah, Switzerland!".

I fully support anyone's right to (peacefully) worship whatever and however the hell they want, and that includes Muslims.

The traditional Islamic minaret, however, does not reflect an act of worship, it reflects political dominance over the sheeple. Nowadays we have things called "watches" (or cell-phones with as many time-based alarms as you could pray for) to remind people to pray. Minarets serve no purpose but to remind people to stay in their place lest the eyes of man see them slacking and impose entirely Earthly punishments on them.

So I'll gladly support the Swiss in their decision to tell Sharia (as entirely distinct from Islam) where to stick their towers of oppression, and only wish the rest of the western world would catch on before we find ourselves paying tax as dhimmi.
posted by pla at 9:07 AM on November 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Syria, too, has a christian population and the associated edifices.
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2009


Even if they sincerely feel concern over culture and religion in their country, how the hell does banning the construction of minarets resolve this?

It helps the country continue to be secular by discouraging a very active religious group from practicing there.

This is not an Christian-Islam fight (they do it too!), but a question of how liberal secular countries deal with minorities.

They're probably trying to avoid a situation just such as this. Note the tolerant messages which will no doubt shame the Swiss into reconsidering.

Can you give some evidence for Islamic countries banning the construction of christian churches?

15 seconds of googling
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


codswallop: Perhaps you could expalin why you think that is relevant? It seems clear to me that religious freedom is a basic human right and that the freedom to construct places of worship is central to that. Protecting this freedom is not just important for the rights of muslims, but for the rights of all in democratic countries, including for those wishing to have the freedom not to practice any religion.

Feel free to construct an FPP making your points about the lack of freedom of religion in muslim dominated countries, its perfectly valid for you to do so. It is right to identify and criticise these absences of freedom.

What is not valid however, is to propose that certain groups of citiziens in supposedly free countries should somehow have less entitlement to their freedoms based on the absence of those freedoms elsewhere. If you have any real concern over religious freedom rather than simply a reactionary and knee jerk throw away comment then I struggle to see how you could not come to the conclusion that the ideal is that we maximise freedom in both east and west.

A well constructed and thoughtful post concerning religious persecution in predominantly muslim countries might thus be a useful contribution to the front page (as indeed might a post concerning co-operation and tolerance between churches) and to increasing awareness. When can we expect it?
posted by biffa at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


pla: Your argument would be stronger if you didn't add the 'tax as dhimmis' line at the end, which is a classic "Eurabia! The darkies are coming!" scare-phrase.

I don't know enough about the history and imagery of traditional mosque architecture to disagree with your assessment of the role of minarets, but I doubt that the political symbolism of minarets in Muslim-majority countries was at the front of voters' minds.

This was illiberal democracy - mob rule trampling the rights of a minority group. I assume that there are planning laws, building control laws in Switzerland as there are elsewhere. This is a constitutional amendment that overrules the delegation of religious matters to the cantons. It's the Swiss equivalent of DOMA, and just as bigoted.
posted by athenian at 9:14 AM on November 29, 2009 [13 favorites]


It helps the country continue to be secular by discouraging a very active religious group from practicing there.

So what you're saying is that the structure on the left is defending secularism, but the structure on the right is threatening secularism.

How daft I've been to see it otherwise.
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:14 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


It seems clear to me that religious freedom is a basic human right and that the freedom to construct places of worship is central to that.

Minarets aren't places of worship, they are big audio billboards announcing worship time.

Mosques are where you go to practice Islam, and they don't seem to be at risk here.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:15 AM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


So I'll gladly support the Swiss in their decision to tell Sharia (as entirely distinct from Islam) where to stick their towers of oppression, and only wish the rest of the western world would catch on before we find ourselves paying tax as dhimmi.

too late, it's already been done
posted by pyramid termite at 9:15 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mayor Curley: That situation was in London, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, where there are plenty of minarets. The protestors were from an extremely nutty Islamist group that call for a global caliphate and have next to no support among British muslims. To say the Swiss were justified because "they were trying to avoid this situation" is equivalent to saying that we need to blow up St Peter's in Rome in order to stop the next abortion clinic murder.
posted by athenian at 9:16 AM on November 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


it reflects political dominance over the sheeple.

Oops. Credibility -100%. Stopped reading comment. Withdrawing from thread.
posted by fuq at 9:17 AM on November 29, 2009 [25 favorites]


It helps the country continue to be secular by discouraging a very active religious group from practicing there.

Does it? So muslims who are "very active" can't practice without a minaret? How does that follow? Should we also ban the building of church steeples then, just because some christians might be "very active" in their religion? No, they've only banned minarets.

They're probably trying to avoid a situation just such as this. Note the tolerant messages which will no doubt shame the Swiss into reconsidering.

So they're going to ban muslims from entering the country? Or maybe subject them to a faith test to make sure they're "nice" musims? No, they've only banned minarets

Again, if they have concern about religion and culture in their country, then fine, they can take steps to deal with it. But targeting a community with pathetic buildings codes that only takes away their visibility in society is not one of those steps.
posted by Sova at 9:17 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, athenian, but scary signs.
posted by defenestration at 9:17 AM on November 29, 2009


To everyone making sure we understand that minarets aren't places of worship, but rather buildings erected to remind believers/followers of Islam to pray:

OK, understood. How does that make this more defensible?
posted by defenestration at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


The traditional Islamic minaret, however, does not reflect an act of worship, it reflects political dominance over the sheeple. Nowadays we have things called "watches" (or cell-phones with as many time-based alarms as you could pray for) to remind people to pray. Minarets serve no purpose but to remind people to stay in their place lest the eyes of man see them slacking and impose entirely Earthly punishments on them.

You have no idea what you are talking about. It was traditional to try to have a blind muezzin so as not to invade people's privacy. It's not a bloody panopticon.
posted by nikitabot at 9:24 AM on November 29, 2009 [25 favorites]


Architecture is free to embody shifting meanings and interpretations even whilst the basic structure and look of the thing remains completely unchanged. Are you going to tell western developers to stop converting industrial factories, warehouses and prisons into hip lofts, offices and restaurants because of the exploitative labour practices they used to represent? The minarets is completely irrelevant.
posted by doobiedoo at 9:25 AM on November 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


OK, understood. How does that make this more defensible?

57% of the Swiss population don't want to be reminded to go pray five times a day.

This isn't a religious issue - it is closer to preventing your neighbor from setting a trip hammer or other noisy equipment next door. Everyone has to listen to the minaret, so why should they have to if they don't want to?
posted by b1tr0t at 9:26 AM on November 29, 2009


This isn't a religious issue - it is closer to preventing your neighbor from setting a trip hammer or other noisy equipment next door.

So what's your take on all those church bells that keep ringing all the time? Have you ever been to Switzerland?
posted by effbot at 9:28 AM on November 29, 2009 [33 favorites]


They're probably trying to avoid a situation just such as this.

"BUTCHER THOSE WHO MOCK ISLAM"

Thanks. I've been looking for an appropriate new bumper sticker for a few weeks now. This nails it.
posted by philip-random at 9:29 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches? No. Is that FPP-worthy?

Switzerland is not a "Christian country."
posted by applemeat at 9:29 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


The fact that there's a minaret there doesn't mean anyone has to climb it and shout at prayer time. I could kind of see banning that behavior, since that's not something you can easily look away from.

But merely constructing a building? You've got to obey the building codes already, and if those are doing their job they're already preventing minarets from being a public nuisance. Why would anyone need a constitutional amendment against them?
posted by LogicalDash at 9:29 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I would like to say to all the Muslims listening that this will in no way change their right to practise their religion, to pray or to gather [in mosques]," he said. "However, society wants to put a safeguard on the political-legal wing of Islam, for which there is no separation between state and religion."

Yes. Because if you spend time in any country with Sharia law and an active Wahhabist movement, you'll invariably find that the real point there when the whole thing tipped from freedom of expression to theocratic fanaticism was when they built a minaret.

Well played, Switzerland, your culture's in safe white hands now! You can rest easy, knowing that while who knows how many terror cells are drawing finances from secure, interest-bearing deposits in your banks, you won't have to sully your eyes with their gaudy architecture.

Switzerland: Moolah, Ja! Mullahs, Nein!
posted by gompa at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2009 [26 favorites]


15 seconds of googling

That country hasn't legally banned the construction of churches, rather it's an article about how one particularly thing, like many other things, is very dangerous in Afghanistan.
posted by delmoi at 9:31 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


57% of the Swiss population don't want to be reminded to go pray five times a day.

This isn't a religious issue - it is closer to preventing your neighbor from setting a trip hammer or other noisy equipment next door. Everyone has to listen to the minaret, so why should they have to if they don't want to?


So forbid the adhan then? Or set limits on the noise religious buildings can make at certain hours of the day? There isn't even mention as to whether these are even working minarets, and I know many in England are not. I wouldn't want to live next to that noise, but only because it's noise, not because I'm scared the brown people are coming to get me.

Indeed, in one of the linked articles:

"If there was a muezzin [calling Muslims to prayer] that would be a different matter."
posted by Sova at 9:32 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Forced marriages and other things like cemeteries separating the pure and impure – we don't have that in Switzerland and we don't want to introduce it," said Ulrich Schlüer, co-president of the Initiative Committee to ban minarets.

Ennh...? Am I not getting it? Are forced marriages performed atop of minarets? How is this anything but a horrendous distortion of the issue?
posted by limon at 9:32 AM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Is this a fair representation of what minaret prayer calls sound like?
posted by defenestration at 9:33 AM on November 29, 2009


pla, so I take it you're also opposed to the construction of new churches with steeples or bell-towers, right? I mean, there's no need for those big clanging bells now that it's the 21st century and everyone has watches. Besides, those steeples that dwarf the other nearby buildings, somehow implying that Christians are closer to God, are just relics of an archaic (and frankly offensive!) theocratic mentality!
posted by Bromius at 9:34 AM on November 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


athenian : pla: Your argument would be stronger if you didn't add the 'tax as dhimmis' line at the end, which is a classic "Eurabia! The darkies are coming!" scare-phrase.

Umm, no. Try "Standard operating proceedure" for Islam. If I wanted to warn about "the darkies are coming", I would have said something about the (relatively new) penchant of radical Islam for terrorism. Historically, minority-Muslims behave as model-citizens, everything you'd want in a neighbor. They faux-adopt their host culture, they proudly pay their taxes, they support even non-Muslim charities and play an active role in the community.

And the second they hit 51% of the population, the other 49% have exactly three choices - Convert, Dhimmification, or GTFO. Which, in fairness, includes one option more than Christians have historically given Muslims in the same situation.


I don't know enough about the history and imagery of traditional mosque architecture to disagree with your assessment of the role of minarets

Forgive me, then, for completely disregarding your criticisms thereof.


but I doubt that the political symbolism of minarets in Muslim-majority countries was at the front of voters' minds.

I have one question for you - Why did they ban minarets, but not mosques?

Unless, as Vetinari sarcastically suggests in the FP summary, they simply consider them ugly architecture, why would the Swiss ban human clock-towers rather than the actual places of congregation and worship, if they simply wanted to suppress the religion itself?
posted by pla at 9:34 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The traditional Islamic minaret, however, does not reflect an act of worship, it reflects political dominance over the sheeple. Nowadays we have things called "watches" (or cell-phones with as many time-based alarms as you could pray for) to remind people to pray. Minarets serve no purpose but to remind people to stay in their place lest the eyes of man see them slacking and impose entirely Earthly punishments on them.


Steeples and clocktowers on town halls are just as redundant in the age of the wristwatch, but Switzerland hasn't banned them.

A modern minaret is usually just an elevated platform for a loudspeaker. No-one actually goes up into it - the call to prayer is transmitted via microphone from within the mosque - so 'the eyes of man' aren't in the minaret to see anything.


57% of the Swiss population don't want to be reminded to go pray five times a day.

Where I live, I can hear church bells on Sundays and the bells of two elementary schools on weekdays. I don't really want to be reminded to go to church/break for recess either, but I manage to put up with it. Besides, as this article points out, Swiss mosques do NOT broadcast the call to prayer to the surrounding area, anyway.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 9:36 AM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


biffa:It seems clear to me that religious freedom is a basic human right and that the freedom to construct places of worship is central to that.

That's an interesting point, could you extend on why the right to worship extends to the right to build? I'm unconvinced (but would like to be convinced) how the one flows from the other.

It seems "religious freedom" must be narrowly defined to include the right to practice whatever religious faith and mysticism one might wish to. However, are minarets central to Islam such that worship can not be performed without their construction? If not, then is this more than a glorified case of a building permit refusal? Granted, it's on a country-wide scale, sends a disturbing message and the Swiss are going to have to walk a very fine line to establish that this wasn't some gambit to increase hostility towards Muslims, but even still, religious worship centers of other faiths are not granted the ability to build in any location they choose whenever they choose. Is this not an extension of that to the nth degree?
posted by quakerjono at 9:37 AM on November 29, 2009


15 more seconds of googling:

Churches are allowed in Malaysia, though there are restrictions on construction of new churches through discriminatory zoning laws.
posted by applemeat at 9:40 AM on November 29, 2009


It seems clear to me that religious freedom is a basic human right and that the freedom to construct places of worship is central to that.

My new religion is BeachBoysWaterparkism, and I'm going to build a huge Waterpark next to your house and blare Beach Boys music 24/7 because - obviously - that's a basic human right as dictated by my personal lord and savior, Brian Wilson the True.
posted by billysumday at 9:42 AM on November 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Umm, no. Try "Standard operating proceedure" for Islam. If I wanted to warn about "the darkies are coming", I would have said something about the (relatively new) penchant of radical Islam for terrorism. Historically, minority-Muslims behave as model-citizens, everything you'd want in a neighbor. They faux-adopt their host culture, they proudly pay their taxes, they support even non-Muslim charities and play an active role in the community.

And the second they hit 51% of the population, the other 49% have exactly three choices - Convert, Dhimmification, or GTFO. Which, in fairness, includes one option more than Christians have historically given Muslims in the same situation.


Oooh, no stop! You're scaring me now mother. Should I check under me bed before I go to sleep? Or maybe the woodpile too? Maybe they'll team up with the Yellow Peril and then we'll be finished!
posted by Sova at 9:44 AM on November 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


And the second they hit 51% of the population, the other 49% have exactly three choices - Convert, Dhimmification, or GTFO. Which, in fairness, includes one option more than Christians have historically given Muslims in the same situation.

Wow, I must have missed all the news stories about these tumultuous events.
posted by nikitabot at 9:45 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


pla: you seem to have these Muslims pretty much figured out. Perhaps you could share with us one country where Muslims hit 51% of the population and then expelled anyone else or taxed them or forced them to convert? Because I honestly can't think of a country that has gone from majority-non-Muslim to majority-Muslim in the last few hundred years. Perhaps there are a few cases of demographic change on that scale in individual provinces of West African countries like Nigeria, but the introduction of Sharia law in northern Nigeria is for all sorts of historical and political reasons, not 'just because they're Muslim' - otherwise we'd be seeing people being stoned to death in the Bosniak part of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
posted by athenian at 9:45 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Am I not getting it? Are forced marriages performed atop of minarets? How is this anything but a horrendous distortion of the issue?

It's been awhile since I've spent any time in Switzerland, limon, but I'm going to go waaayyyy out on a limb here and guess that the Initiative Committee to Ban Minarets is all about horrendous distortions of the issue.

If I might take a run at the subtext here: Oh, no, it's not about diversity or civil rights. We Swiss are very modern, very - how you say? - tolerant. It is not that they are brown, or that they speak non-European languages, or that they sometimes wear clothes that strike us as odd, or that their archaic desert prophet is not the same one we chose, or that their food smells different from ours, or that like much of Europe we've been posturing like crazy for a generation now on the importance of human rights and civil rights and equality around the world while never actually embracing the idea of real pluralism at a social and cultural and - indeed with this great victory today! - even a legal level in our own sandboxes.

No, no, no, no. It's the, uh, the buildings they are making. These towers, these minarets? Yes, our problem with the brown people in our midst begins and ends there. Otherwise, you know, herzlich Willkommen and chacun a son gout!

On preview, see pla's excellent embodiment of the prejudice at play here. If I may further paraphrase: It's not that we fear them as some random other in our midst. It's that we specifically fear that they will convert or enslave us the moment they have the chance, because these people cannot be trusted!
posted by gompa at 9:48 AM on November 29, 2009 [29 favorites]


Posts about Islam never end up going well on Metafilter. 95% of posters are skeptical of all religion and 95% of posters despise cultural and racial bigotry and are tuned into detecting it in any scenario - the problem is that when discussing Islam, half of the posters here are arguing from a position that Islam is a religion and half of the posters are arguing from a position that Islam is a cultural identity.

Personally, I feel like minarets should be outlawed because Islam is stupid, just like all religions (Pastafarianism excluded). Granted, this is why nobody would ever put me in charge of anything, because in addition to outlawing the construction of religious edifices, I would also outlaw the selling of those pink sweatpants with "JUICY" written across the butt.
posted by billysumday at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2009 [17 favorites]


Obviously the real problem is that the muslims forgot the key to being welcomed throughout Switzerland: bring the gold of the people you slaughtered to deposit in their banks.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:51 AM on November 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


It seems like people in this thread who are defending this initiative are under the impression that this ban has to do with the call to prayer being a nuisance. Where does this impression come from? Not only does the Swissinfo article not say anything about the adhan, but the Wikipedia article about the whole controversy makes it pretty clear that this initiative has nothing to do with the adhan and everything to do with minarets being perceived as "symbol[s] of religious-political power claim." If you drop the noise aspect of your argument, how can you still believe that this initiative is defensible?
posted by Dr. Send at 9:52 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


People doing the Muslims ban churches too thing:

Two wrongs don't make a right, ever heard of it?

OR

Shouldn't you be twice as bothered, then?
posted by defenestration at 9:52 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


So what's your take on all those church bells that keep ringing all the time?

Excepting church services on Sunday, most church bells chime on the quarter hour, which is useful regardless of religion (although vastly less so in the era of the cheap, accurate watch and cellphone). Moreover, their chimes are not inherently religious. Compare that to the adhan sung from a minaret, which is inherently religious.

So, banning the construction of minarets is dumb, especially on the federal level. Banning the regular, loud singing or playing of all religious messages? Maybe defensible in a fiercely secular society (which Switzerland may or may not be). Banning regular, loud broadcasts of all kinds? Sounds like a sensible law to me. Consider that many places have laws against advertising trucks, for example.
posted by jedicus at 9:53 AM on November 29, 2009


religious worship centers of other faiths are not granted the ability to build in any location they choose whenever they choose.

No sane person would advocate that Muslims have the right to build in any location they choose. Nor should Christians, Buddhists, Jews or any other religion have this right. Nor should any individual - I can't go and build a shack in my neighbor's yard, or in the middle of the street. But if I legally acquire a parcel of land and am refused permission to build on it, I'd like to know why. And I'd like to hear a good reason - that my proposed building is a fire hazard, a public nuisance, an environmental risk. I certainly don't want to be told that I can't build my minaret because xenophobic hausfraus got the willies at the thought of my looming tower of power. And I don't want to be told that Mr. Christian next door can build a very similar structure while I, Mr. Muslim, can't. Isn't that obviously discriminatory?

My new religion is BeachBoysWaterparkism, and I'm going to build a huge Waterpark next to your house and blare Beach Boys music 24/7 because - obviously - that's a basic human right as dictated by my personal lord and savior, Brian Wilson the True.

Obviously, town planning requirements exist. You can't plop down a cathedral in a zone of one-storey houses. But if there's a small church in that zone and a group of Jews want to build a small synagogue next door, I'm not going to kick up a fuss. They have the same rights as their Christian neighbours.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 9:55 AM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Bromius : pla, so I take it you're also opposed to the construction of new churches with steeples or bell-towers, right?

Yes, actually, but for entirely different reasons. I consider them merely a nuissance rather than as the symbol of an oppressive theocratic regime (though once upon a time... Arthurian legend includes an "interesting" explanation for the ringing of the bells at Glastonbury Abbey)


I mean, there's no need for those big clanging bells now that it's the 21st century and everyone has watches. Besides, those steeples that dwarf the other nearby buildings, somehow implying that Christians are closer to God, are just relics of an archaic (and frankly offensive!) theocratic mentality!

I love your attempt at sarcasm, primarily because, as a non-Christian, I agree with you completely. That said, to reiterate my original point, I support the Swiss in their ban for entirely different reasons than merely a nationwide noise ordinance.


fuq : Oops. Credibility -100%. Stopped reading comment. Withdrawing from thread.

Door. Ass. Don't let it hit yours. See ya!
posted by pla at 9:56 AM on November 29, 2009


On lack of preview: Besides, as this article points out, Swiss mosques do NOT broadcast the call to prayer to the surrounding area, anyway.

Well, I guess I could maybe see codifying a restriction on all regular, loud religious messages or all regular, loud broadcasts, just to ensure that the status quo is preserved, but that makes the blanket minaret ban all the more invidious.
posted by jedicus at 9:56 AM on November 29, 2009


Obviously, town planning requirements exist. You can't plop down a cathedral in a zone of one-storey houses.

Even though I agree with this statement, how does that square with "the construction of religious buildings is a basic human right"? I don't think The One True God cares where you put the temple you use to worship Him.
posted by billysumday at 9:57 AM on November 29, 2009


I live in Switzerland. I stopped in to a store near my house yesterday. There was a row of checkers, and I grabbed the one with the shortest line. I failed to notice, but my partner did, that there were long lines elsewhere. Apparently no one wanted the pleasant lady with the scarf over her head to ring their stuff up. I've never noticed anything like that here before.

Personally, I'm not in the slightest bothered by the call to prayer, so long as the PA system isn't horrible. I find the sound to be quite spiritual, and I'll at least take a passing moment to reflect on such things.

In some ways, I'm not too terribly surprised. Switzerland isn't all that liberal. However, I hear that many of these initiatives that get voted in, never make it to law. There is a whole process. All the political parties, except for 2 extreme parties, disapprove of the measure.
posted by Goofyy at 9:58 AM on November 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


The traditional Islamic minaret, however, does not reflect an act of worship, it reflects political dominance over the sheeple.

You just used "sheeple" unironically on MetaFilter. Sheesh. And I really doubt you are an expert on Islam or minarets or whatever.

The vote signifies that a majority of Swiss people do not want Islam to become a part of their culture. If this is not racist, I don't know what is.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:58 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's doubtful that banning minarets would help prevent the formation of Islamic ghettos, not inconceivable, just very unlikely. Yet, I say let the Swiss have their symbolic ban, as the real impact upon people's lives is negligible, just means one less self aggrandizing reason for a priest to raise donations.

It's far more important to ban religious symbols and headscarves in schools, ala France, and ban religious schools, ala Turkey. Some parents will always attempt segregate their children from the rest of the society, which is a violation of the kids human rights.

Religious worker visas should also be eliminated. Why import Scientology, Mormonism, etc.?

p.s. Aren't mountain people usually racist?
posted by jeffburdges at 9:59 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The vote signifies that a majority of Swiss people do not want Islam to become a part of their culture. If this is not racist, I don't know what is.

SEE?!?! This is what I'm talking about. To a large number of people on Metafilter, Islam is not a religion, but a race of people. I find that to be slightly racist, myself. Idiots who believe in magic sky men come in all colors, friend.
posted by billysumday at 10:00 AM on November 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


see, when i go to switzerland, i want to see moo cows on hillsides, and young men yodeling across the vales. and houses like in "the sound of music". not a minaret, or a buddha temple.
posted by billybobtoo at 10:01 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Even when minarets are built there can still be laws about their use in terms of noise. Steeples are constructed for the exact same purpose, and generally don't toll as much as they did in the old days, although granted bells don't have inherent messages compared to the call to prayer.

It's laughable that some in this thread can defend the results of this vote on noise pollution laws, given the recent history of what the Swiss People's Party (SVP), the party behind this referendum, has been up to. This is the party behind the "Sicherheit schaffen" (racist sheeple, I guess) and the "Keep the darker hands away from our passports" posters. They've clearly hit a nerve among Swiss voters on this issue, but this is all part of the SVP's hard work creating an increasingly xenophobic and racist climate in Switzerland.
posted by Gnatcho at 10:05 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The vote signifies that a majority of Swiss people do not want Islam to become a part of their culture. If this is not racist, I don't know what is.

I don't know why culture has anything to do with race. I don't want Islam to be part of my culture; this doesn't mean I don't want Arabs living in my town. I don't want Christianity in my culture either, but it's a little late for that. Luckily, Western Christianity is neutered. It currently threathens my gay friends more than me.
posted by spaltavian at 10:08 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Even though I agree with this statement, how does that square with "the construction of religious buildings is a basic human right"? I don't think The One True God cares where you put the temple you use to worship Him.

Well, I didn't say that. It was some other fella.

When it comes to banning things, I feel the question we should ask is not 'Why not?' but 'Why?' Give me a strong reason to ban something, and I'll get behind the ban. Otherwise, don't clog up the law books with useless legislation. Sure, this minaret ban might not be such a huge imposition on Muslims' exercise of their religion, but if there's not a good solid reason for a prohibition, I say 'don't prohibit'.

Also, we shouldn't ban things for one group and not for another without very good reason. The larger question of whether construction of religious buildings per se is a human right is not what interests me. The fact is, the majority of Swiss citizens can build such structures if they choose, so I see no reason why the Muslim minority can't.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 10:09 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


gompa : Yes, our problem with the brown people in our midst begins and ends there. On preview, see pla's excellent embodiment of the prejudice at play here.t

Perhaps you (and others) could continue the discussion without the strawman of "brown people"?

And as for my own prejudices, although I believe in a creator deity, I consider all formal religions the height of arrogance, and at best a form of medieval crowd-control. So spare me the "would you ban similar Christian/Buddhist/Shito/Pastafarian monuments" hyperbole, spare me the "Brown people" shtick (oooh, I used a Yiddish phrase in a derogatory context, I must hate Jews too, right?), and try reading what actually exists on the page. We'll have much more civil discussions that way.
posted by pla at 10:10 AM on November 29, 2009


95% of posters are skeptical of all religion and 95% of posters despise cultural and racial bigotry and are tuned into detecting it in any scenario... [W]hen discussing Islam, half of the posters here are arguing from a position that Islam is a religion and half of the posters are arguing from a position that Islam is a cultural identity.
And the remaining half of posters are attempting to articulate concerns, generally unwelcome everywhere on MetaFilter, about the rise of radical Islam in free societies. Swiss voters may have seized upon a purely symbolic issue and may have gone overboard (or may not have), but it seems this is what the vote is really addressing, not building codes, church bells, or previous Christian atrocities.
posted by joeclark at 10:10 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


This isn't a religious issue - it is closer to preventing your neighbor from setting a trip hammer or other noisy equipment next door. Everyone has to listen to the minaret, so why should they have to if they don't want to?

According to the associated press: Swiss mosques do not broadcast the call to prayer outside their buildings.

So the noise argument is completely irrelevant here. None of the existing Swiss minarets are making any noise whatsoever.
posted by av123 at 10:11 AM on November 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's been awhile since I've spent any time in Switzerland, limon, but I'm going to go waaayyyy out on a limb here and guess that the Initiative Committee to Ban Minarets is all about horrendous distortions of the issue.

SVP is basically like every right-wing nationalist movement everywhere. They exist to get themselves attention first and to throw the foreigners out second. My feeling is they needed a win (they've had a long string of losing referenda, most of which were terribly dangerous things like detaching from EU bilateral treaties over work permits for Bulgarians) and they used anxiety over radical Islam to get it.

The little talk-circle thing they had on Swiss television degenerated very quickly into a discussion about unemployment, which shows you precisely how little this actually has to do with Islam and how much it has to do with general undefined nationalist fearmongering. The choice quote from this little event was a reply from the spokesdroid from one of the other parties when the well-coiffed SVP spokesdroid pointed out this was a victory for women's rights: paraphrased, "finally, the SVP has discovered the importance of gender equality!"
posted by Vetinari at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2009


see, when i go to metafilter, i want to read something interesting, thoughtful, reasoned, and well written. and funny like bill murray in pretty much anything. not a dumbass comment, or abhorrent nonsense.
posted by defenestration at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2009


The vote signifies that a majority of Swiss people do not want Islam to become a part of their culture. If this is not racist, I don't know what is.

It would help if Islam was actually a race. Conflating a religion with race is itself a product of a racist world view.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:21 AM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Moreover, their chimes are not inherently religious. Compare that to the adhan sung from a minaret, which is inherently religious. [|]
Blink.

I guess fish never see the water they swim in due to the beam in their own eye, or something.
posted by kipmanley at 10:21 AM on November 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


KokuRyu : The vote signifies that a majority of Swiss people do not want Islam to become a part of their culture.

Despite the rampant charges or racism, no one has yet answered my fairly simple question - If the Swiss simply don't want Islam period, why ban minarets but not mosques?


If this is not racist, I don't know what is.

What the hell? Seriously people, I don't get all this racism BS - Every Muslim I've ever known (and yes, that includes a pretty decent number, probably in the dozens), I'd consider basically white. Not that that matters to me in the least, either... I fear zealotry far more than melanin.

Or to put it another way, Jews and Muslims both come from the same region and the same genetic stock. Do Jews count as "brown" people for the purpose of this discussion as well? In both cases, at most, I'd say they get an awesome tan fairly easily. Hardly the "brown panic" you would like to frame this as.
posted by pla at 10:22 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are minarets one of the radical parts of Islam, joeclark?
posted by defenestration at 10:22 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love the fact that Christian groups opposed the ban. It was Christian groups, not atheists, who spearheaded separation of church and state in the US. Good thing they did, too!

This is not a question of banning outlandish over-the-top constructions from your BeachBoysWaterparkism, and it's not even a question of banning noise, as these weren't operating minarets in the first place. It's just a question of a tower attached to a place of worship (and a strange, misguided symbol for Swiss xenophobia). No, you don't need it to worship, but I guess you don't really need a church or a mosque to worship either, you could just do it in an office building, or your own home... Doesn't seem very nice though, does it.

Funny thing is there's a built-in bias here: They could equally ban Christian church towers being built, but it wouldn't matter because in a place like Switzerland, you pretty much don't ever need to build new churches.
posted by Badasscommy at 10:23 AM on November 29, 2009


And the remaining half of posters are attempting to articulate concerns, generally unwelcome everywhere on MetaFilter, about the rise of radical Islam in free societies. Swiss voters may have seized upon a purely symbolic issue and may have gone overboard (or may not have), but it seems this is what the vote is really addressing, not building codes, church bells, or previous Christian atrocities.

And these people, the ones worried about their free societies, are the ones passing laws most damaging to the freedom of those societies. I agree that - and have since the start of this discussion - that there are and can be real concerns over how religion and culture works in a free society. But xenophobia is the enemy of free societies as much as radical religious ideologies. The path between the two isn't exactly narrow, but the Swiss seem to have missed it entirely.
posted by Sova at 10:24 AM on November 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


And the second they hit 51% of the population, the other 49% have exactly three choices

Which is exactly why laws affecting basic human rights -- to marry, to build houses of prayer, to practice their religion without special taxation -- should never be subject to a simple majority vote.
posted by PlusDistance at 10:25 AM on November 29, 2009 [18 favorites]


This issue, sadly, always hinges on stupid symbols like head scarves and spires and the racist drivel of nativist parties. This brings the expected reaction of the left, who focus on the idiots who hate brown people, rather than any legitmiate questions regarding Europe and it's Muslim population.

There's so much we don't even know; no one should be passionately on a "side" yet, except for against xenophobia and racism. The concern over having a large illiberal minority in a liberal society is valid, but we don't know if a large percentage of Muslim immigrants in Europe are actually illiberal. We should find this out first. Are these immigrants assimilating? If not, is it because of Islam, or because of the conditions they find in their host countries; poverty, unemployment. Are there enough economic opportunities for these people to be included in society? If not, is it an issue of not enough jobs or that they are being excluded, deliberately or not? Is Europe simply accepting in too many outsiders too fast? Is European culture (which does have a right to exist) actually threatned, or is fearmongoring?
posted by spaltavian at 10:26 AM on November 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Do Jews count as "brown" people for the purpose of this discussion as well?

Sometimes.
posted by PlusDistance at 10:28 AM on November 29, 2009


eatyourcellphone: No sane person would advocate that Muslims have the right to build in any location they choose. Nor should Christians, Buddhists, Jews or any other religion have this right.

Given, I used hyperbole to make the point and that was perhaps not wise. However, the question was less over the privileges accorded to other religions and more to the notion of why "religious freedom" includes building permits.

But if I legally acquire a parcel of land and am refused permission to build on it, I'd like to know why.

While you may not find the reason satisfactory, does that necessarily equate to the reason being discriminatory? And again, why is this a breach of religious freedom?
posted by quakerjono at 10:31 AM on November 29, 2009


Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches? No. Is that FPP-worthy?

really misleading. the swiss are displaying xenophobic and racist tendencies. it's much more than just brooding beyond the surface. given where they are and who they are it's of quite significant concern. I wished I could say I was surprised by todays vote but I am not.
posted by krautland at 10:35 AM on November 29, 2009


So what's your take on all those church bells that keep ringing all the time?

Well, for one thing, "During the Siege of Belgrade (Hungarian name: Nándorfehérvár) in 1456, Hungarian noblemen John Hunyadi (leader of the Hungarian royal army) and Mihály Szilágyi (Captain of the castle of Nándorfehérvár/ Belgrade) defended the city against the onslaught of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II. The siege finished with a great glorious Hungarian victory. During the siege, Pope Callixtus III ordered the bells of every church to be rung every day at noon, as a call for believers to pray for the defenders of the city. However, in many countries (like England and Spanish Kingdoms), news of the victory arrived before the order, and the ringing of the church bells at noon thus transformed into a commemoration of the victory. The Pope didn't withdraw the order, and Catholic churches still ring the noon bell to this day." [via]
posted by semmi at 10:38 AM on November 29, 2009


It's not racism, but this is an example of institutionalizing intolerance against a minority population, a behavior that is only linked to the very worst of humanity, and one intimately linked to the very worst behavior humans have ever engaged toward each other. And, if you're an atheist and are justifying it because who cares about idiots who believe in invisible supermen, congratulations: you have just joined the great masses of humanity who have sat passively by and observed as the world has turned to intolerance because you think some people deserve not to be tolerated.

It doesn't matter if you think religion is stupid. People have every right to be stupid. But when nations start passing laws that target and marginalize one group of idiots and favor another, we're on a long and very bad path that has ended very poorly in the past.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:39 AM on November 29, 2009 [39 favorites]


Or to put it another way, Jews and Muslims both come from the same region and the same genetic stock. Do Jews count as "brown" people for the purpose of this discussion as well? In both cases, at most, I'd say they get an awesome tan fairly easily. Hardly the "brown panic" you would like to frame this as.

That phrasing still turns a religious-cultural issue into a racial issue. Sure, the origins of Islam and Judiasm may lie within the same ethnic group. If you look at Islam by population, the ranking is Asia Pacific, Middle East, Sub Saharan Africa. The largest Muslim country by population is Indonesia, with Pakistan and India close behind.

It seems far to frame this discussion in terms of xenophobia, but to call it an issue of race only reinforces racist thinking.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:41 AM on November 29, 2009


Or to put it another way, Jews and Muslims both come from the same region and the same genetic stock. Do Jews count as "brown" people for the purpose of this discussion as well?

I guess you've never been to Pakistan. Or, like, seen a picture of it.
posted by delmoi at 10:43 AM on November 29, 2009


I don't think The One True God cares where you put the temple you use to worship Him.

Well there is that 11th Commandment (yup, the one THEY won't allow us to see) where Jehovah clearly states, "Thou shalt not transcend local bylaws in order to worship Me."
posted by philip-random at 10:44 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


The eponysterical codswallop: Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches? No. Is that FPP-worthy?


Just got back from Egypt, where the locals were at pains to point out to me the Christian churches standing a few doors down from the mosques. (And where the one sentence of English that everyone knew was 'welcome to Egypt').

But yes, I'd say that an Islamic country that banned Christian churches or similar would be FPP-worthy.
posted by Infinite Jest at 10:46 AM on November 29, 2009


And, if you're an atheist and are justifying it because who cares about idiots who believe in invisible supermen, congratulations

Oooh, what'd I win, what'd I win...

you have just joined the great masses of humanity who have sat passively by and observed as the world has turned to intolerance because you think some people deserve not to be tolerated.

Hey, I was expecting a commemorative mug or an XXL t-shirt or something.
posted by billysumday at 10:46 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


And, if you're an atheist and are justifying it because who cares about idiots who believe in invisible supermen, congratulations: you have just joined the great masses of humanity who have sat passively by and observed as the world has turned to intolerance because you think some people deserve not to be tolerated.

This is where you are wrong. We are discussing intolerance towards a group's behavior, not intolerance towards the members of the group itself.

If the minarets really are silent, then I have a harder time empathizing with the Swiss position against them. An argument could still be made against them on the grounds of preserving the architectural integrity of traditional Swiss villages, but that argument is much harder to make when it is a nation-wide ban.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:48 AM on November 29, 2009


To all those who are defending the ban: can you please give me a single good reason why this ban is a good idea? I don't mean some tortuous reasoning about why this isn't such a bad thing as it looks, but simply a single good purpose for this ban. Because I sure as heck can't see one, and imposing bans for no good reason isn't usually the mark of a free, democratic society.

As for the "they do it too" defence, not only do many majoritarily Muslim countries allow the building of churches (steeples included), as it has been pointed out by others, but a large majority of the Muslims in Switzerland originate from such countries: Turkey, Bosnia, Albania, etc. Not only is this defence thus wrong, but it could moreover now be used to justfy harassment of other faiths in those hitherto tolerant countries.

Finally, to all those denying any racism in this: in view of the ban's proponents antecedents, such a denial is thoroughly disingenuous. The SVP has been previously involved in some pretty openly racist campaigns. Putting arbitrary restrictions on the rites of a religion which in Switzerland is very majoritarily followed by non-citizens of a darker skin hue is certainly a racially motivated form of harassment, and pretending otherwise is as disingeneous as pretending that the "literacy tests" for voters in some Southern states of the US were only motivated by a desire to improve voters' education.

Finally, to
posted by Skeptic at 10:49 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Minarets aren't places of worship, but watchtowers? And this is a serious argument against minarets?

Good grief. I was in Geneva a few weeks ago, and visited an 450-year-old watchtower while there. Y'know what it was part of? A Christian church. The one in which Calvin himself preached. It wasn't used for worship. It wasn't a belltower. It was only a watchtower. Attached to a church.
posted by fraula at 10:51 AM on November 29, 2009


I'm sorry, but as a fellow atheist, I just think there is a lot more to it than finding one more excuse for dismissing entire swaths of humanity because I think they are stupider than me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:56 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Because I sure as heck can't see one, and imposing bans for no good reason isn't usually the mark of a free, democratic society.

Architectural bans and restrictions are fairly common.

Finally, to all those denying any racism in this: in view of the ban's proponents antecedents, such a denial is thoroughly disingenuous.

There probably is a lot of racism inherent in the ban, but to agree that it is a racist issue only strengthens their position. Preserving Swiss racial integrity or ethnic makeup is a racist issue. Banning a piece of monumental architecture particular to a religious group is a cultural issue. It probably has racist motivations, but the ban itself has nothing to do with race.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:57 AM on November 29, 2009


This is where you are wrong. We are discussing intolerance towards a group's behavior, not intolerance towards the members of the group itself.

If the minarets really are silent, then I have a harder time empathizing with the Swiss position against them. An argument could still be made against them on the grounds of preserving the architectural integrity of traditional Swiss villages, but that argument is much harder to make when it is a nation-wide ban.


No we aren't. We are discussing tolerating one group's behavior -- church bells -- while eliminating another group's similar behavior. That's the act of marginalizing a minority.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:57 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


The concern over having a large illiberal minority in a liberal society is valid, but we don't know if a large percentage of Muslim immigrants in Europe are actually illiberal....Is Europe simply accepting in too many outsiders too fast? Is European culture (which does have a right to exist) actually threatned, or is fearmongoring?

From the article I linked in my first comment:
"Muslims make up about 6 percent of Switzerland's 7.5 million people. Many Swiss Muslims are refugees from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Fewer than 13 percent practice their religion, the government says, and Swiss mosques do not broadcast the call to prayer outside their buildings."

These Muslims may be outsiders to Switzerland, but many of them are Europeans. European is not synonymous with Christian.

And according to the Swiss government's own statistics, the majority of them aren't even practicing Muslims.


While you may not find the reason satisfactory, does that necessarily equate to the reason being discriminatory? And again, why is this a breach of religious freedom?


I didn't say building permits were a part of 'religious freedom'. Vanilla ice-cream is not a right either, but if the government allows its sale, it should be sold to all and sundry. Not selling ice-cream to blacks or women or Jews because of who they are is discriminatory. Swiss Muslims are being denied access to a privilege enjoyed by other citizens on the basis of their religion. This is discriminatory.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 10:58 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is European culture (which does have a right to exist) actually threatned, or is (this) fearmongoring?

It is worth pointing that many European nations, and Switzerland in particular given its landlocked status, are not what one could call Immigrant nations. That is, unlike all of North America, the vast majority of their citizens can lay claim to bloodlines that go back many hundreds (if not thousands) of years.

This does not excuse racist and/or xenophobic policies, of course, but it does suggest that the Swiss (for instance) really do have a unique and complex culture that it's only natural they should wish to "protect". It's wrong-headed to bring something as trivial as minaret-banning into it, but it is understandable.
posted by philip-random at 11:00 AM on November 29, 2009


Your argument appears to be that as long as we're not worse than repressive theocratic dictatorships, everything's OK.

And your argument relies on all Islamic countries being repressive theocratic dictatorships, but whateve.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:01 AM on November 29, 2009


"And the second they hit 51% of the population, the other 49% have exactly three choices - Convert, Dhimmification, or GTFO. Which, in fairness, includes one option more than Christians have historically given Muslims in the same situation."

Wow, I must have missed all the news stories about these tumultuous events.


These news stories are called "history books". Try reading a history of Indonesia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East...

While I do agree that I'd be very nervous in a country with a 51% Muslim population, and I do agree that noisy minarets would suck to live around, given the tiny number of Muslims in Switzerland and the fact that it's architecture and not noise that's being legislated I would describe this legislation as "equal parts racism and stupidity".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:03 AM on November 29, 2009


If your justification for intolerance is that some Muslims are likewise intolerant, you've strayed so far from a moral center than broadcasts of the 1936 Olympics are just now reaching you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:03 AM on November 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Every Muslim I've ever known (and yes, that includes a pretty decent number, probably in the dozens), I'd consider basically white.

Three cheers for hegemony!
posted by dhammond at 11:03 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Let me add that, in all fairness, modern Indonesia works hard at being a tolerant secular state with a Muslim majority...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:05 AM on November 29, 2009


On the race thing:

It's not as if what we're talking about here is native Swiss converting to Islam, and it's not as if what we're talking about here is your anecdata about people you knew who were Muslims - this is about discrimination against immigrants from Yugoslavia and Turkey who have perfect legal rights to live in Switzerland. It's a ban on architectural elements - as people upthread have pointed out, none of the minarets are noisy, and all are governed by current building codes - of minority religious buildings. This is about who's Swiss and who's un-Swiss (and Muslim), not the annoyances of minarets. The equivalent would be some far-right Americans agitating to ban the construction of, say, churches named for Our Lady of Viet Nam or Our Lady of Guadalupe.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 11:09 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches?

They also cut off hands and have public executions. I'm not real sure any secular democracy should be trying to follow their example.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:15 AM on November 29, 2009


Historically, minority-Muslims behave as model-citizens, everything you'd want in a neighbor. They faux-adopt their host culture, they proudly pay their taxes, they support even non-Muslim charities and play an active role in the community.

And the second they hit 51% of the population, the other 49% have exactly three choices - Convert, Dhimmification, or GTFO. Which, in fairness, includes one option more than Christians have historically given Muslims in the same situation.


Sorry -- can you give me a single example of where a non-Muslim state has reached a point where their previously minority Muslim population has become a majority, and then subsequently created those 3 options you outlined for the remaining (now minority) non-Muslims?

Because otherwise, I think you're full of it.
posted by modernnomad at 11:15 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think that there are two rhetorical factions here are both right in their own way and not seeing how they intersect. It's not a question of either/or but both/and. That is, it's not about "Anti-islamist sentiment is racist" or "islam isn't a race," it's both. Or, to be more precise, it's through this slippage between religious identity and ethnicity that the SVP are harnessing xenophobia and repackaging it as a far more respectable fear for secular, civil society. Think dogwhistle politics from the 2008 electoral season. The confusing thing about this is that it makes it possible for "bad" and "good" causes to coincide and even reinforce each other. And so, those who are concerned about the degradation of a secular public sphere and secular state are sometimes mortified to realize what sorts of xenophobic nationalist parties agree with them on certain issues (or maybe they're not mortified and just being strategic, I dunno).

In any case, I think that a lot of attention has to be paid to how Islam is being used in these discussions precisely because political actors are taking advantage of its multiple valences as religious identity, ethnicity (and, by implication, race), alterity/otherness, community, and "mere" practice.
posted by LMGM at 11:17 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and, Jesus fucking Christ,

"And the second they hit 51% of the population, the other 49% have exactly three choices - Convert, Dhimmification, or GTFO. Which, in fairness, includes one option more than Christians have historically given Muslims in the same situation."

Wow, I must have missed all the news stories about these tumultuous events.

These news stories are called "history books". Try reading a history of Indonesia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East...


I'm under the impression that all these tumultuous events occurred before the end of the sixteenth century. Before, y'know, the development of national identities and notions of citizenship that superseded religious prejudices, when this was the case with, as far as I know, just about every religion in human history. Way back up there, pia was talking in the present tense, not about things that happened in history books.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 11:20 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


...bloodlines that go back many hundreds (if not thousands) of years. This does not excuse racist and/or xenophobic policies, of course, but it does suggest that the Swiss (for instance) really do have a unique and complex culture that it's only natural they should wish to "protect". It's wrong-headed to bring something as trivial as minaret-banning into it, but it is understandable.

In this paragraph, the nonchalant grammatical ease with which "bloodlines" transitions into "culture," and "wrong-headed" transitions into "understandable," reads like a case-study in how, even unintentionally (and I know it was not necessarily "meant" this way), subtle racist mythologies begin to penetrate consciousness.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:27 AM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


b1tr0t
Architectural bans and restrictions are fairly common.


Perhaps, but groundless ones? I asked for one good reason for this particular ban, and just proferring that there are other bans isn't an answer.

Besides, a ban on minarets isn't an "architectural ban". What distinguishes a minaret from any other tower isn't architecture, but the fact that it is attached to a mosque, which in turn is just a building characterised for Muslim prayers. Indeed, both minarets and mosques have quite easily been converted for other uses in the past...
posted by Skeptic at 11:31 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


modernnomad : Sorry -- can you give me a single example of where a non-Muslim state has reached a point where their previously minority Muslim population has become a majority, and then subsequently created those 3 options you outlined for the remaining (now minority) non-Muslims? Because otherwise, I think you're full of it.

Oh, I most certainly can, and in droves.

Try Gaza, 2008. Or Nigeria, 1999. or Somalia, also 1999. Or Indonesia (province-by-province), 2000. Or hey, I have a great one for ya, Iraq, 2004 (unofficial). Pakistan (also by-provence), 2009.

Malaysia barely defeated an attempt at imposing Sharia it this year. Expect it to fall next year (a friend of mine, an Ethnic Chinese living there, fears for his life when this happens).

If you'd like, I can go back and give you the history of countries falling under Sharia, but I figured half a dozen examples in the last 15 years should satisfy your request.
posted by pla at 11:33 AM on November 29, 2009


I used to live right near a Mosque that broadcast the call to prayer five times a day. It was beautiful and I still miss hearing it 10 years later. Swiss are missing out.
posted by milarepa at 11:33 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


These news stories are called "history books". Try reading a history of Indonesia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East...

Thanks for edifying me. Since my family are Afghan immigrants, we just watch the Al Jazeera, you know, as we prepare to one day institute dhimmi-hood on a unsuspecting USofA.

'News stories' was referring specifically to current events but thanks for playing.
posted by nikitabot at 11:40 AM on November 29, 2009


Try Gaza, 2008. Or Nigeria, 1999. or Somalia, also 1999. Or Indonesia (province-by-province), 2000. Or hey, I have a great one for ya, Iraq, 2004 (unofficial). Pakistan (also by-provence), 2009.

None of those meet the criteria of your claim of states with a minority Muslim population that upon becoming a majority take power and require all non-Muslims to convert or leave. I mean, your very first one -- Gaza -- Gaza is 98% muslim and was so well before 2008.

Are there ethnic conflicts around the world based on religion? Well, of course. But that is significantly distinct from your claim that Muslims are secretly following the laws of democratic nations in order to overthrow them by attempting to become 51% of the population.
posted by modernnomad at 11:48 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Try Gaza, 2008. Or Nigeria, 1999. or Somalia, also 1999. Or Indonesia (province-by-province), 2000. Or hey, I have a great one for ya, Iraq, 2004 (unofficial). Pakistan (also by-provence), 2009.

So they were all previously minority muslim were they? Like recently? And they can be added up into some kind of worldwide islamic conspiracy?

pla, you're full of shit.
posted by Sova at 11:48 AM on November 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


I don't know about you, but this story sure makes me glad I don't live in a country where people's rights are put up to a vote.

Oh wait...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:50 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering if this thread would be taking a different direction--that is, a direction that was more willing to call the Swiss out on their xenophobia and racism--if this was Germany. Seriously, you guys?

This is an informative article about the issue from a German perspective. In Germany, the issue about the minarets is usually couched in reasons like "Our dear skyline of Cologne, besmirched by minarets!" and "If you give them a minaret, soon they'll ask for a call to prayer!"

These sound like bullshit reasons because they are: this is really just about not wanting to acknowledge the fact that Germany (and Switzerland) is becoming a nation of immigrants. It's much easier (and slightly less Nazi-like) to bitch and whine about architecture than it is to ask the fundamental questions about what this relationship should look like.

There are over 2,500 mosques and prayer rooms in Germany today, for 4.3 million Muslims (that's 1 in every 20 German residents), but barely 200 actually look like mosques. That's not because people don't want to worship in things that look like mosques: it's because they're scared of what will happen when they do.

Also, it's not as if the Muslims came to Switzerland and started setting up mosques uninvited: I'm pretty sure the reason there's a lot of Muslims from Albania and Turkey in Switzerland is that it invited them through guest worker programs, and then when bad shit went down in those two countries, a lot of people from those two countries applied for asylum in Switzerland to join relatives, or because they spoke German, or whatever.

I think if you invite these people in to do your hard work, you should let them have a couple of silent towers on their religious buildings.
posted by besonders at 11:51 AM on November 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


This is a horrible day for all Swiss everywhere. One less place to hide Nazi gold.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:52 AM on November 29, 2009


The discussion here (what I can catch through a poor understanding of German): pretty much everyone with any power whatsoever is pointing out that this is a stupid result, and a reasonably stupid initiative even to hold. Only the SVP spokesdroid (who turns out to be the president of the party, who replaced W admirer Christoph Blocher - oops, the hair really threw me off) pretends it means anything good.

There are very real questions to be answered here, questions that all of (nominally christian) Europe, without any real history of immigration and integration, will struggle to find decent answers to. Radical Islam seems incompatible with those values Western democracies hold inviolate, not that such values are universally agreed upon. But banning a religion also is incompatible with these values. And I'm assuming that it is self-evident even to the people who voted Ja that banning minarets isn't going to bring anyone any closer to an answer to any of these questions. In terms of constructive solutions isn't going to do anything except help the cause of radical Islam. Fear begets fear and so on.

Two further points: there have been suggestions that it's in part a protest vote in light of the current diplomatic row with Libya, which has been somewhat embarrassing. Federal Councillor and head of the department of Justice and Police Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf is also giving interviews on TV all but suggesting that someone should try to build a minaret to get test case sent up to the European Court of Human Rights. It occurs to me that this might be a situation the SVP wanted to provoke, as they're fairly isolationist and wouldn't mind rolling back some of the bilateral agreements with Europe, which they might get a favorable political climate for if the ECHR tries to get Switzerland to change a popular, if stupid, bit of its constitution.
posted by Vetinari at 11:53 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


d'oh: s/history of immigration and integration/history of immigration and religious plurality/g
posted by Vetinari at 11:56 AM on November 29, 2009


And the remaining half of posters are attempting to articulate concerns, generally unwelcome everywhere on MetaFilter, about the rise of radical Islam in free societies.

I think that most people here would agree that it's a fair concern. But they would also say that actions which target all of Islam are more likely to radicalize moderate Muslims than to discourage the radicals.
posted by Slothrup at 11:59 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


ME: ...bloodlines that go back many hundreds (if not thousands) of years. This does not excuse racist and/or xenophobic policies, of course, but it does suggest that the Swiss (for instance) really do have a unique and complex culture that it's only natural they should wish to "protect". It's wrong-headed to bring something as trivial as minaret-banning into it, but it is understandable.

HP LaserJet P10006: In this paragraph, the nonchalant grammatical ease with which "bloodlines" transitions into "culture," and "wrong-headed" transitions into "understandable," reads like a case-study in how, even unintentionally (and I know it was not necessarily "meant" this way), subtle racist mythologies begin to penetrate consciousness.

For the record, I think I'm fairly conscious of how racist mythologies penetrate consciousness. It's why I stated my point this way. Because it can be so damned casual and commonsense, thus understandable, which should never be confused with condonable.

I haven't read the actual wording of the law that the Swiss just voted in, but I'm guessing it doesn't read as batshitinsane. Far from it. 57% of a well educated, more or less sophisticated nation require far subtler prodding. And to effectively bring the issue into the open where it can be discussed, the same is required.
posted by philip-random at 12:00 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


So forbid the adhan then?

Forbidding the call to prayer would still be pretty rank if you didn't also forbid Chrstian churches from making a racket with bell towers. Which, as it happens, would be fine with me (also? Parking wardens employed on Sundays; the faithful can be awfully obnoxious with their parking; God may forgive you blocking in driveways and parking on footpaths, but I sure as hell don't), but I suspect a good chunk of the people who are enthusiastic in the desire to have the local Muslims shut up are not so enthusiastic about having the local Catholic bell tower silcenced.

this is really just about not wanting to acknowledge the fact that Germany (and Switzerland) is becoming a nation of immigrants.

There's also the very legitimate concern about the disturbing tendancy, as the Brits and Danes have dicovered, for a non-trivial chunk of people to take to the streets promising to kill their countrymen for real or imagined slights to their faith. Tolerance is a two-way street, and if you want to move to a country where a degree of free speech, acceptance of homosexuality, or rights for women[1] are the norm, maybe you want to quit acting like it's an offence that the country is full of people not living the same way you did in your place of origin.

[1] Doesn't really describe Switzerland, I guess.
posted by rodgerd at 12:06 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sova : So they were all previously minority muslim were they? Like recently?

Yes, actually. And I won't suggest a 51/49 split (due to the general instability in most of those regions, I doubt we could even get an accurate tally of that), but essentially as I claimed, once Islam had a solid foothold therein, they converted to Sharia.


And they can be added up into some kind of worldwide islamic conspiracy?

No clue where you got that from. I don't suggest any sort of "conspiracy", just that Muslims do exactly what their holy book tells them to - Play nice when in the minority, and enforce Sharia when you have the power to do so. You could just as well call Christians taking communion on Sunday a "conspiracy" to keep tasteless little wafer manufacturers in business.


pla, you're full of shit.

"Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site."
posted by pla at 12:09 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I haven't read the actual wording of the law that the Swiss just voted in

Article 72 section 3 of the Constitution will now read (in the German language) "Der Bau von Minaretten ist verboten." ("The construction of minarets is forbidden.") It's very simple, as most of the constitution is. I'm not exactly sure how this gets implemented; I presume it's up to the parliament or the executive to define what a minaret is, for example. Very little room for batshitinsanity there, though.

to effectively bring the issue into the open where it can be discussed, the same is required.

One thing I noticed was there was very little anti-minaret-initiative advertising. Most of the effort people put into it actually seemed to be defacing the minarets-as-missles posters. Whether this was because the adults in the country have gotten used to ignoring the SVP's xenophobic whining and getting the correct Nein vote to the Pile On The Ausländer Question of the Month anyway, or because they were uncomfortable themselves starting the right conversation, I couldn't say. Suspect it's a little of both, more of the latter. Hopefully this result will shock the right people into asking the right questions.
posted by Vetinari at 12:15 PM on November 29, 2009


eatyourcellphone: Spaltaivan: The concern over having a large illiberal minority in a liberal society is valid, but we don't know if a large percentage of Muslim immigrants in Europe are actually illiberal....Is Europe simply accepting in too many outsiders too fast? Is European culture (which does have a right to exist) actually threatned, or is fearmongoring?

From the article I linked in my first comment:
"Muslims make up about 6 percent of Switzerland's 7.5 million people. Many Swiss Muslims are refugees from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Fewer than 13 percent practice their religion, the government says, and Swiss mosques do not broadcast the call to prayer outside their buildings."


If it wasn't clear, my comments were about Europe at large. Obviously, "Muslim lands" stretch from the Balkans and the Maghreb to Indonesia, and from Siberia to Somalia. Muslims are not a monolithic block, so neither are Muslims in Europe. There are those from the Balkans, the Subcontinent, Asia Minor and elsewhere. Some are secular, some are devout. My point was that a real issue gets drowned out by the screaming match between racists and those who decry the racists but also sometimes put people with good-faith (if often provincial) worries in the same categories as the nativists.

These Muslims may be outsiders to Switzerland, but many of them are Europeans.

These particular Muslims that you're pointing out, sure. I wasn't defending this law, which I find abhorrent, even if I understand the instinct behind it.

European is not synonymous with Christian.

Well, thanks. I mean, it's not like it's common knowledge that much of Europe is secular or anything. Still, in the way that Muslims are not monolithic, neither is the geographic/cultural entity known as "Europe". The stable, wealthy and democratic Europe of France, Germany, Britain and so on is different from the war-torn former Yogulsavia. Someone, of any religion, from that area is European, but that does not mean they are not outsiders from the some what arbitrary cultural-entity of "Western Europe". Europe's not a real geologic or geographic continent anyway, so there's no reason to get worked up where we draw the lines. Is Russia in Europe? Yes (mostly) and no. Is Turkey in Europe? Yes and no (mostly?). Cyprus? Israel?
posted by spaltavian at 12:23 PM on November 29, 2009


pla Reading your contributions in this thread, your shameless dissembling and stubborn refusal to acknowledge the arguments of others, I believe that it is fundamental for a healthy discussion to insist on the fact that you are completely full of shit.
posted by Skeptic at 12:24 PM on November 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


Thank goodness. This will surely quell the tide of radical Islam once and for all. Furthermore, I'm sure this will make it much easier to identify where members of radical sects gather, since some few of their religious buildings will now look less like their traditional religious buildings.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:30 PM on November 29, 2009


Sorry, sorry, what? Is there a person in this thread making the argument that Muslims are inevitably evil and it's therefore OK to oppress them with discriminatory laws?

I'm not really great at responding to this kind of bigotry. [angry outburst redacted].

Let me take this opportunity to suggest that the expression of such a naked willingness to discriminate on the basis of stereotypes and sophistry is not acceptable. We're all at our separate computers, but I'd like you bigots among us to imagine that all the other posters are looking at you with very deep frowns and communicating profound disapproval.
posted by prefpara at 12:33 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone mention Switzerland's other great accomplishement?
posted by From Bklyn at 12:43 PM on November 29, 2009


There's also the very legitimate concern about the disturbing tendancy, as the Brits and Danes have dicovered, for a non-trivial chunk of people to take to the streets promising to kill their countrymen for real or imagined slights to their faith. Tolerance is a two-way street, and if you want to move to a country where a degree of free speech, acceptance of homosexuality, or rights for women[1] are the norm, maybe you want to quit acting like it's an offence that the country is full of people not living the same way you did in your place of origin.

So, you're saying they should also introduce constitutional amendments banning shaved heads and second-wave ska?
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 12:44 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Skeptic : pla Reading your contributions in this thread, your shameless dissembling and stubborn refusal to acknowledge the arguments of others, I believe that it is fundamental for a healthy discussion to insist on the fact that you are completely full of shit.

Please feel free to point out a single point I have ignored, or a single claim that someone has asked me to support for which I failed to do so.

The most recent claim, that of imposition of Sharia in majority-muslim nations, I provided six examples, which led to Sova and yourself calling me full of shit, without even bothering to try at a refutation or counterpoint whatsoever.

You don't have to agree with me, you don't have to like me, you don't even have to read my posts or respond to me (and I can recommend a good Greasemonkey script to help you shield your poor widdle eyes from my awful, awful posts, if you like). But if you call me racist, or full of shit, or even just plain "wrong", damned well have the courtesy to in some way support that assertion.
posted by pla at 12:46 PM on November 29, 2009


pla, you argued that these impositions of Sharia as state law came when these countries reached majority Muslim status from prior majority non-Muslim populations, then named six states that have had majority Muslim in the lands that now constitute them since the sixteenth century. That's the refutation people have been posting. You were just plain wrong, and by ignoring their responses and throwing a tantrum in the thread are full of shit.

(and the reason your ethnic Chinese Malaysian friend would be fearful would have very little to do with Islamic jurisprudence and a whole lot to do with the legacies of divisive ethnic policies under British colonial rule and the history of communism/anti-communism in the region, some of which, yeah, have probably been folded into religious sentiment)
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 12:57 PM on November 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


dropped a "populations" somewhere. "majority Muslim populations"
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 12:57 PM on November 29, 2009


The most recent claim, that of imposition of Sharia in majority-muslim nations, I provided six examples

That is not what you said originally:

Historically, minority-Muslims behave as model-citizens, everything you'd want in a neighbor. They faux-adopt their host culture, they proudly pay their taxes, they support even non-Muslim charities and play an active role in the community...Convert, Dhimmification, or GTFO.

Please provide examples of countries where the minority population of Muslims stealthily played nice until they were a majority and then forced the now non-Muslim minority to convert, pay a dhimmi tax or leave.
posted by nikitabot at 1:03 PM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is equally clear that once Christians become 51% of the voting population of a country, they immediately pass laws criminalizing homosexuality and restricting the sexual and medical freedoms of women. We therefore have no choice but to ban the construction of steeples.
posted by kipmanley at 1:05 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow, Iraq (?!), the Gaza Strip, and Pakistan were all primarily what, Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or Hindu countries from the time of their formation as nation-states until the end of the 20th century, when they suddenly became Muslim and then expelled or forced conversion upon all non-Muslims? Who knew?! Damn, I guess I'll have to revise my understanding of modern foreign affairs.

Seriously, man, you seem to be confusing cultural and religious conflict within already-Islamic states with the asked-for real-life example of a state wherein "minority-Muslims behave[d] as model-citizens, everything you'd want in a neighbor. They faux-adopt[ed] their host culture, they proudly [paid] their taxes, they support[ed] even non-Muslim charities and play[ed] an active role in the community. And the second they hit 51% of the population, the other 49% [had] exactly three choices - Convert, Dhimmification, or GTFO." Which, you may recall, was your original claim.

Further claiming that the Iraq - which was one of the centers of Muslim civilization for centuries before it was ever modern Iraq - is an example of the this supposed trend is rather like claiming that in 2001 in the US, the previously minority Christian population became a majority, subsequently forcing all citizens to convert, submit to, uh, "dhimmitude," or flee. All because "[Christians] do exactly what their holy book tells them to." There are scraps of truth there, inasmuch a certain cultural/religious part of the culture has recently become more prominent and powerful, and that has had major effects on domestic and foreign policy and daily life. But claiming that this kind of internal cultural struggle is proof of some kind of unique sekkrit Trojan horse plan to Take Over The World - well, that shows an impressive ignorance of history and religion, along with some rather rabid paranoia.

See, the rise of radical elements in a culture or religion isn't anything new, or weird, or special. It's happened in any number of civilizations for any number of historic and ethnic and economic and cultural reasons, and it generally causes unrest and sometimes even wars and revolutions, and it's completely reasonable to want to study the spread of the current strain of fundamentalist Islam (which everyone agrees exists) in that light. But that's not the same as claiming that all the adherents of an entire religion (a religion that, like Christianity, is far from a single monolithic belief system) are emigrating to other countries (or reproducing?) with the hope of obeying the laws until that magic 51% is reached. Saying "Iraq (2004, unofficial)" as an example of the local implementation of Sharia law does nothing to prove that extreme claim. I know, I know, talking about historical trends and economic pressures and stuff isn't nearly as exciting as shouting about the Horrible Dystopic Eurabian Future, but hey, that's real life, all boring and difficult because of those stupid facts.
posted by ubersturm at 1:13 PM on November 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Holy hell there's a lot of intellectual dishonesty (and some well-intentioned but ill-informed "information") being tossed around in this thread.

Starting from the top: This reminds me of some of the laws passed at the end of the Gold Rush to push Chinese out: "You cannot have a laundry business in a wooden building" etc.

1.) That was in the 1880's. 2.) The Supreme Court monumentally struck those laws down, recognizing that while the law was facially neutral as regards race, it was administered in a way to make it unconstitutionally prejudicial. In 1885. We can't even pretend that this sort of shit would fly in the U.S., no matter how many Americans were in favor of discriminating against Islam (of which I think you could find a few.) The joking term in legal scholarship for this sort of law is, "Rich or poor, nobody may sleep under the bridges of Paris."

Moving on, BeachBoysWaterparkism is the most intriguing religion I've ever heard of, but the argument there is chock-full-o'-misrepresentations. You might not be able to build your Waterpark next door to me, and you might not be able to play Beach Boys music at all hours next door to me either. But you could still build it in the U.S. at least, and play your music there, provided you got the right location and permits. Minarets are forbidden from being built in Switzerland anywhere and they aren't used for broadcast prayer-calls anyway.

And pla, I don't know where to start with your "Muslims are model citizens until they get the chance to take us over" bit, but to claim that isn't prejudiced is a bit of a stretch, and to use this defense to justify the shutting down of a Muslim minority by a non-Muslim majority is specious and hypocritical, I think. I was going to bitch about the use of the phrase "model citizens," because to me it smacked of the same cultural superiority as you get with white Americans saying that a black man "speaks so well!," but I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt there, as it seems like you were talking pan-culturally about Muslim immigrants adopting to whatever norms they move into.

I'll take issue with the "Muslims look white to me" bit, however, not to pick on you personally, pla, but because it's just a part of a weird logical disconnect a lot of people seem to be having in this thread. So let me set the record straight:

RACE, CULTURE AND RELIGION ARE BASICALLY INEXTRICABLE FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES IN THIS REAL WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE

They are not coterminous, obviously. Race, culture and religion all continue to evolve, intermingle and change as well, of course. It doesn't even need to be an organized religion or even a faith system at all - Chinese atheism is state-ordained, and a part of the culture. Not all Chinese are Han, not all Han are Chinese, not all Han or Chinese are athiest, but in general it's all a part of the same package.

With Jews it gets even more muddled, as apart from native Israelis, most Jews are stateless, and the terminology refers to the race, culture, and religion all at the same time, even though a great many Jews are non-practicing or atheist, and racially the culture is intermingled with the races of all the rest of the world by this point.

With Islam there are a number of different races and distinct cultures: Arab, Persian, Malay and Pakistani, just to name the biggies. But they are all under the banner of Islam. I don't know what the ethnic demographics of Muslims in Switzerland are, but this ban targets Muslims and Muslim culture. Saying that it's "racist" may be off-the-mark, but only semantically. I'm an atheist myself, and find fault with all religion, and yes, I believe that the practices some religions preach are more evil and hurtful than others. Still, this is very clear-cut cultural discrimination, done under the guise of mere religious discrimination, under a sheer veil of architectural discrimination.

To put it in other terms, if Alabama were to ban the selling of soul food, they could do so by saying that it's a cuisine notable for health risks (which, aside from collard greens, it is) and they could go further to say that lacks and whites alike enjoy soul food. That wouldn't change the fact that the law would be a direct attack on African-Americans, for whom soul food is a distinct part of their culture and history. It does not define them, as a race, and one can certainly be black, and proudly so, in Alabama without eating soul food, but the message is still clear.

And the message Switzerland is sending is equally clear - Muslims Go Home. And if you were an Arab, Malay, Persian or Pakistani living in Switzerland who didn't practice Islam, the message would ring out just as clearly that you are no longer welcome there.

That's what people here are pissed about.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:18 PM on November 29, 2009 [35 favorites]


moThe Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal : pla, you argued that these impositions of Sharia as state law came when these countries reached majority Muslim status from prior majority non-Muslim populations, then named six states that have had majority Muslim in the lands that now constitute them since the sixteenth century.

Okay, thank you. That I can respond to, and I would only stop to point out that you alone have actually stated that, I didn't ignore anyone else saying the same (I do notice now that ModernNomad did say the same thing above, and I sincerely just missed it).

So, according to Wikipedia, Nigeria has a 50.4% Muslim population. Malaysia, 60.4. The rest, I would have to agree have a rather high percentage of Muslims - My error, and damn my eyes for trying to provide more examples than strictly necessary to the challenge for a cite.

But ModernNomad asked for one, and didn't originally specify "since the sixteenth century". So, having clarified your stance, and I clarifying mine, would you like to shift the target again to make my point look less accurate?


You were just plain wrong, and by ignoring their responses and throwing a tantrum in the thread are full of shit.

Yes, I only grazed a moving target. I hit where it previously stood quite solidly, however. As for "throwing a tabtrum", sorry, but responding to my detractors does not a tantrum make - Though I will of course admit that it would probably look a bit classier, I'd hate to "ignore their responses" any more than necessary.


nikitabot : That is not what you said originally

You do see the word "historically" in there, right? You even quoted it back to me. What part of "[not] since the sixteenth century" doesn't qualify as "historically"?


Please provide examples of countries where the minority population of Muslims stealthily played nice until they were a majority and then forced the now non-Muslim minority to convert, pay a dhimmi tax or leave.

"Sharia" means exactly that. Sharia doesn't mean you can't eat bacon on Friday and women have to wear funky headgear. It means nothing less than convert, pay the tax, or get out.

And again, I never said anything about the sixteenth century. Don't put qualifiers in my mouth that I never claimed. At the very least, I did indeed provide one solid post-16th century example (Nigeria). Now, do you want to hold that target still, or do I need to switch to full-auto and just spam out the details of every Sharia conversion and how warm-and-fuzzy it went, from 632 to the present?
posted by pla at 1:19 PM on November 29, 2009


You might not be able to build your Waterpark next door to me, and you might not be able to play Beach Boys music at all hours next door to me either. But you could still build it in the U.S. at least, and play your music there, provided you got the right location and permits. Minarets are forbidden from being built in Switzerland anywhere and they aren't used for broadcast prayer-calls anyway.

Uh, my point wasn't about the minarets at all. I was simply refuting the idea that it's a "basic human right" to be able to construct religious edifices.
posted by billysumday at 1:23 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's time, it's time, it's time to hate the Swiss!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:26 PM on November 29, 2009


billysumday - I'm sorry I misconstrued your point. In my defense, the construction and noise parts of it made it seem like an analogue to the minarets, but I get it now. That doesn't alter the discriminatory purpose of this law for me, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:34 PM on November 29, 2009


Okay, look, I obviously can't continue this argument against 10 separate people, and it would appear that all those originally agreeing with me have a bit more sanity than do I, and have fled the building.

So... I concede the point. You win, Bridge and Nikita and Nomad and Navel (actually, NavelGazer, I quite liked some of your points), and Sturm, et al... In all of human history, but especially since the sixteenth century, Islam has never progressively built to a critical mass in a non-Muslim country and then imposed Sharia once they had to power to enforce it.

I also concede that I count as the worst type of racist - So racist that I don't even see the groups I mindlessly attack in terms of "race".

So... No more on this topic from me. Feed amongst yourselves.
posted by pla at 1:35 PM on November 29, 2009


Fair enough, I should have stated more clearly the specific point I was making.
posted by billysumday at 1:36 PM on November 29, 2009


I didn't say building permits were a part of 'religious freedom'.

Fair enough, but others have and that's what's intriguing. I'm curious if this is a question of legal process or moral judgment.

Swiss Muslims are being denied access to a privilege enjoyed by other citizens on the basis of their religion. This is discriminatory.

But this again begs the religious freedom question: is a minaret a cardinal point of the Islamic faith who's removal makes it impossible to practice Islam or is this architecture? If a minaret is central, then it would seem to be a case for discrimination and an attack on religious freedom. If it's not, then it would seem to be simply unwelcome building which is fairly commonly denounced, such as a town that votes to keep a Wal-Mart out because of the business implications. Is there a bias involved, probably, but that's also pretty standard in government. Not saying it's right, but that one would be hard pressed to find any government, nation or culture that doesn't have some level of bias associated with it.

Granting, though, for the moment that it's discrimination, that seems to ask another question: So what? That's flip, but honestly, the general tenor in the world at the moment seems to be, "Please refrain from sticking in your oar." Now, we in the U.S. have been a MAJOR player in bringing this attitude to the forefront, so I'll admit my own bias in that I've become very "hands off" in terms of judging other sovereign nations and their actions. Perhaps this situation should be different, but if so, then why?

Switzerland is perhaps going through a period of change. Can Switzerland's liberalism extend itself to encompass that change and, perhaps paradoxically, embrace the idea of "We don't like this particular group or this group's practice"? Should it? Can liberalism actually be used to justify, at least in terms of social practicality, discrimination?

Just asking questions. Not really arguing for a viewpoint yet.
posted by quakerjono at 1:46 PM on November 29, 2009


So, you're saying they should also introduce constitutional amendments banning ... ska?

God.

Yes.

Please.

The next band that has a horn section hit on the 2 or 4, STRAIGHT TO A "REEDUCATION CENTER"!
posted by quakerjono at 1:50 PM on November 29, 2009


Don't get me started on those fucking alphorns.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:51 PM on November 29, 2009


Christian churches are not allowed in Saudi Arabia. Just reporting a fact.
posted by Phanx at 2:10 PM on November 29, 2009


At the very least, I did indeed provide one solid post-16th century example (Nigeria).

While parts of Nigeria converted to Islam post 16th century this is not true for all of Nigeria. In fact, Islam was there before there was a Nigeria. Most of the precursors of modern Nigeria Kanem, the Sokoto Caliphate, the Hausa, (with the exceptions of Ife/Oyo, Benin and the Igbo) were Islamic nations well before the twentieth century. I'm too lazy to go check my books but I'm pretty sure that The Kingdom of Kanem was Muslim by around 700-800 CE. The history of Islam in West Africa is deep. It is much longer than that of Christianity which is why Africanist scholars like Ali Mazrui claim that Islam has been Africanized.

To claim that events that occurred post 16th century are contemporary is absurd. You made claims that Muslims build up their populations past the tipping point and then basically fuck over everybody else. The examples that you listed were places where Islam has existed for a very long time and in recent times the citizens have voted for Sharia. You are being disingenuous.

If you are going to make outrageous claims, at least have some evidence to back them up. Pulling made up facts out of your ass on the fly doesn't really work too well here.
posted by anansi at 2:14 PM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, I guess you've run off for now, but, hey, would I like to shift the target again to make your point look less accurate? (and, remember, in the original you were talking about modern states; my comment, coming way later, actually gave you more latitude to work with)

You betcha! Okay, lets look at your one remaining example, Nigeria. Let's look at some maps of Nigeria. Here's that map of states by percentage Muslim population on the page you cited. Nigeria, a 50-75% state, is on the southern edge of the big 90-100% block. Here are the Nigerian states that have individually implemented Sharia since 1999. This is a map of Nigerian linguistic and ethnic groups from 1979, which is certainly close enough for us. The Hausa and Kanuri have both been overwhelmingly Muslim since their conversions at the start of the second millennium AD. They make up the vast majority of the population in those regions. This is not a map, but it is a guy you used to hear a lot about in the days before good spam filters. He was from the blue region. This is not a map either, but another dude, one who became president in 1999 and was from that pink area. Nigeria's previous presidents and dictators had been from the north. Suddenly, there was one from the south, and the northern states were making a lot of noise about a separate identity and legal system. This is unbelievably oversimplified, but does it sound like a demographic tipping point was reached to you, pla?
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 2:23 PM on November 29, 2009


I am entirely unsurprised that this law passed. Switzerland is the single most xenophobic and racist country I have ever visited. I encountered antisemitism to a disturbing degree. Switzerland felt more unsafe than Gaza. The idea that this is somehow a separate issue from the pervasive and deep nativism and racism of the Swiss is laughable.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:24 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Navelgazer: They are not coterminous, obviously. Race, culture and religion all continue to evolve, intermingle and change as well, of course. It doesn't even need to be an organized religion or even a faith system at all - Chinese atheism is state-ordained, and a part of the culture. Not all Chinese are Han, not all Han are Chinese, not all Han or Chinese are athiest, but in general it's all a part of the same package.

I want Venn diagrams of these kinds of relationships, for the example above, and for others. I'm not disagreeing with you, I just think they'd be pretty. And informative.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:52 PM on November 29, 2009


Malaysia was an islamic area since the 14th century. It was colonised in the 16th. After a deal between the Dutch and the British in 1824 (which also setup Dutch East India, i.e. Indonesia, another very long term majority islamic area) it inherited a British common law system, until they were effective kicked out in WWII (and independence officially granted in 1957)

Sharia law returned to Malaysia after independence, though it theoretically only applies to muslims, including the native Malay (who are currently considered by law to be born muslim and cannot convert). Removing British law 50 years after independence, and reimposing Sharia law as the civil law is gaining traction as an idea, but if it was a simple case of Muslim majority, it would already have happened.

As some sort of example of muslims acting as a trojan horse - coming into a country and taking over in modern times - Indonesia and Malaysia are stunningly bad examples, as they have been majority muslim countries for centuries and the main reason that *only* 60% of the population in Malaysia is muslim is because of successive colonisation by europeans, with the hangover of the imposition of British law as a result of it.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:57 PM on November 29, 2009


So, you're saying they should also introduce constitutional amendments banning ... ska?

This amendment isn't really coming along. The individuals responsible for passing it need to pick it up, pick it up, pick it up.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:07 PM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Someone remind me not to come into one of these threads again. I'm severely disappointed by the "You go, Switzerland!" contingent here. MeFi, I expect more from you.
posted by incessant at 3:09 PM on November 29, 2009


I think it is entirely consistent to have a respect for minority rights support the minaret ban for aesthetic or cultural reasons. That said, I doubt that was often the case here.
posted by phrontist at 3:18 PM on November 29, 2009


So, you're saying they should also introduce constitutional amendments banning shaved heads and second-wave ska?

Tolerance is not merely a two-way street. It's a two-tone street, my brother! Pickitup pickitup pickitup....
posted by jonp72 at 3:21 PM on November 29, 2009


@ STONEWEAVER

Switzerland felt more unsafe than Gaza.


This must be a joke. Switzerland is one of the safest country in the world. In Europe the majority of violent crimes are committed by Muslim immigrants:
E.g.: http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/938 Fell free to google other sources.
At the same time a huge part of the Muslim immigrants life on social welfare. (e.g. 50% in Berlin).

Hence I am not surprised by this law either and I am also not surprised why the other European countries are not allowed to vote on this. The results would be similar.

Why I couldn't bother less about the minarets, Muslim immigration should be reduced and criminal immigrants and people who are obviously only able to live on welfare should be send back home. With violent crime I would prefer a "one strike and you will be send home"-Law.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:22 PM on November 29, 2009


Why I couldn't bother less about the minarets, Muslim immigration should be reduced and criminal immigrants and people who are obviously only able to live on welfare should be send back home. With violent crime I would prefer a "one strike and you will be send home"-Law.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:22 PM on November 29 [+] [!] No other comments.

I can't find the minus sign?
posted by prefpara at 3:29 PM on November 29, 2009


RACE, CULTURE AND RELIGION ARE BASICALLY INEXTRICABLE FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES IN THIS REAL WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE

Cue the caps, but this is just a demonstrably false statement on a number of levels. There are plenty of practicing ______ (fill in major religion here) who are not of the same race or culture, for instance. Take Christianity: the culture and race of Ethiopian Coptic Christians is vastly different from that of Guatemalan Catholics, which is in turn vastly different from that of followers of Emanuel Swedenborg. I could go on and on, but it's just so easy to think of examples where "race, culture, and religion" are not at all inextricable, but are in fact very different and heterogeneous.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 3:39 PM on November 29, 2009


I can't find the minus sign?

It looks like this: [!]
posted by Navelgazer at 3:40 PM on November 29, 2009


Fell free to google other sources.
You mean sources other than the publication of a bizarrely bewhiskered Belgian crypto-fascist? Thanks, but I'll just go right ahead and stick my neck out and say that not only is the claim that "in Europe the majority of violent crimes are committed by Muslim immigrants" unmitigated horseshit, anyone even entertaining the possibility that it might be the case is a cretin.
posted by Abiezer at 3:44 PM on November 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


In Europe the majority of violent crimes are committed by Muslim immigrants:
E.g.: http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/938 Fell free to google other sources.
At the same time a huge part of the Muslim immigrants life on social welfare. (e.g. 50% in Berlin).


You're gonna need cites for those kinda claims, and I don't think The Brussels Journal counts. I can't take seriously something which prints: As Mark Steyn points out, the Jihad in the streets of France looked like the early skirmishes of an impending Eurabian civil war,...
posted by Sova at 3:45 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


HP LaserJet P10006: I'm not at all trying to say that when talking about prejudice, we tend to get hung up on what is or isn't "racism," and the you get people splitting hairs about, "well, I'm not hating on Arabs, I'm trying to supress the scourge of Islam," and other such shit where the two are so clearly linked that one substitutes for the other. As is, you know, the case in the linked article up at the top. WHich is why, in my comment, I discussed all the different ethnicities which are considered "Muslim" as well as talking about how Judaeism has reached every corner of the globe.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:45 PM on November 29, 2009


@prefpara

Obviously you have not lived in one of the countries that has such problems. Just ask yourself: Do you want to be beaten up by a group of people "just for fun" and stay in the hospital? Do you mind if people get kicked to death by immigrants (happens quite regularly in Germany) that were able to commit 150 crimes before and still walk around free? Are you willing to accept that social welfare falls apart by people misusing it? Are you willing to pay higher taxes to sustain it? Are you willing to pay 30.000 Euro per person/per year in prison who could just be send home since he isn't a citizen? Are you willing not be bothers of "honor killings" happen in your city and a you girl that was dating the wrong guy gets knifed down and killer to restore "family honor"? Are you not being bothered to read in newspaper about violent crimes by "southerners" since it is considered PI to call them what they are?
All such things would never be tolerated in the US and they are highly controversial in Europe. The vote against the minarets may be easily only a sign of a far greater uneasiness with some developments.
I can give you another example of how immigration CAN work. With the raise of the Ayatollahs in Iran many highly liberal and educated Iranians fled to Europe. They are very well integrated and these problems are unknown with this immigrant group. (Even the former German foreign minister Fisher has a Iranian wife).
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:50 PM on November 29, 2009


yoyo-nyc, what you're talking about sounds to me to be far more about the European ghettoization of Muslim communities than of anything specific to Muslims themselves. Poverty and separation from society create underclasses and create crime.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:56 PM on November 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Navelgazer, I agree with you but for all intents and purposes "race, religion and culture" are definitely, unequivocally not the same. And I think you basically admitted as much when you wrote: They are not coterminous, obviously. Race, culture and religion all continue to evolve, intermingle and change as well, of course.{...} Not all Chinese are Han, not all Han are Chinese, not all Han or Chinese are athiest...

Race, religion and culture are not a package deal at all; they are quite easy to distinguish, even in places where they seem at first to be indistinguishable. For instance, culture includes things like cuisine, which may have religious dictates (no pork or whatnot), but is not really a subset of religion per se. I actually think your main argument (against racism) is stronger if these differences are distinguished.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 3:56 PM on November 29, 2009


@Sova
Official 60% of crimes among youths are committed by immigrants. How many percent of the population do they have? Around 10%? If a minority of 10% commits the majority of crimes then I find this remarkable.
http://www.focus.de/panorama/welt/berlin_aid_125717.html

And the civil war in Europe based on this immigrants is considered a real risk by the CIA. Believe it or not. This is not a certainty but a possibility.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:56 PM on November 29, 2009


Telling us that the CIA considers something a "real risk" devalues whatever fuckin' point it is you're trying to convey.
posted by gman at 4:03 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone remind me not to come into one of these threads again. I'm severely disappointed by the "You go, Switzerland!" contingent here. MeFi, I expect more from you.


It looks like the Western Liberal Democratic welcome mat is rolling up due to increased Islamic fundamentalism worldwide. It makes political sense considering that democracies are least tolerant of theocracy and aren't equipped with the pragmatism to rescue the agnostic ones. What is really surprising here is that anyone acts surprised, but that's a denial of our involvement in helping to create a resurgence in Islamic fundamentalism in the first place. The first casualty was the progressive plan to include Friday into a major three day weekend. Regardless, what should be appreciated in this failure is how the West, at times, put on its best face and pretended it wasn't horrified by theocratic drones passing through public schools and going on to become jihadists. That was a real pride check, and I wouldn't blame the wimpiest liberal for being angry about it.
posted by Brian B. at 4:03 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Official 60% of crimes among youths are committed by immigrants. How many percent of the population do they have? Around 10%? If a minority of 10% commits the majority of crimes then I find this remarkable.
http://www.focus.de/panorama/welt/berlin_aid_125717.html


When did "muslim immigrants" change to "immigrants"? And when did "immigrants" change to "young people of non-German origin"? Do you mind making clear exactly what you think muslims are responsible for, and then providing a link to something which shows that?
posted by Sova at 4:13 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


(Since we're discussing hilarious displays of ignorance in the thread anyway, I find the use of "liberal" and "Switzerland" in the same sentence risible. This is the country where women were denied the vote until 1971, and where the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden denied women the vote in local affairs into the 1990s.)
posted by rodgerd at 4:18 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Statistics show that the UK has worse violent crime than South Africa. Now, you might think that's indeed the case, or you might first begin to wonder about how those figures are compiled, what constitutes a violent crime in different jurisdictions (any affray does in the UK whether injuries result or not), what police focus on to generate the arrests, how much crime goes unreported and so on. My point being that crime statistics are intensely political, may not be a good reflection of the lived reality, and if you intend to make any use of them to back up your fear of Muslims, you'll have to do a bit better than the vague toss we've been presented so far. I write this as someone who would not be in the least surprised to find that young men from a poor, marginalised community may well be committing crimes are high rates. Which is miles away from the line you're peddling.
posted by Abiezer at 4:21 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


yoyo--

It's kind of funny that one of the "related articles" for the Focus link you posted is "Jeder siebte Jugendliche ausländerfeindlich" [Every seventh teenager xenophobic]

I'm not going to deny that youth crime, and immigrant youth crime, is a problem in Germany, but this is less about Muslims being violent and more about structural conditions. Racism and a dramatic lack of access to educational opportunities create a permanent urban underclass.

(And this is besides the point, but who doesn't live on welfare in Berlin?)
posted by besonders at 4:25 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Churches are allowed in Malaysia, though there are restrictions on construction of new churches through discriminatory zoning laws.

This is pretty much the policy in Egypt as well, to a T.

I don't think The One True God cares where you put the temple you use to worship Him.

He (or she) would probably like them to be within walking distance. Granted, a mosque does not need to have a minaret in order to be a place of worship. But it seems wrong to me to pass a law banning people from placing minarets on top of them. This is very clearly an important cultural icon. This isn't like banning billboards or loudspeaker trucks or residential waterparks where these don't hold spiritual or cultural significance. The purpose of this ban is to send a strong message to Muslims in Switzerland that they are expected to be invisible and to follow all of the current cultural norms of the larger population. According to the leader of the political party that spearheaded the campaign, this includes wearing a hijab or trying to get out of swimming lessons (which I guess are mandatory for Swiss students?).

Say what you will about Islam invading the political, cultural, and spiritual space of the West. The truth is, however, we have had a few centuries where many of our norms, for better or worse, have become established and enshrined in nearly every country in the world. The shock and outrage that not all of these Western norms are being embraced, and that they are, in some extremely minor cases, being supplanted with different norms or ideas, is pretty disproportionate. It is indeed worrisome that there are some who are extreme in their views and wish to severely restrict the freedoms of the general population at large and hold them to pretty authoritarian standards. The actions that many of these sorts of people take towards their neighbors and family (honor killings, etc) are very worrisome. I can tell you, however, that Muslims as a whole are not fundamentally different than people of other religious or belief backgrounds, and normally will not support this kind of development. Actions like Switzerland's, however, can fan the flames of intolerance, anger, and authoritarianism. After all, why try to get along with non-Muslims if they do not appear to be willing to get along with you?

p.s. Aren't mountain people usually racist?

Not always, but I hear that bigots are great at making generalizations!

And SEE?!?! This is what I'm talking about. To a large number of people on Metafilter, Islam is not a religion, but a race of people. I find that to be slightly racist, myself. Idiots who believe in magic sky men come in all colors, friend.

The reason that the minaret is banned is precisely because those who oppose them see Muslims as an invading horde rather than a group of individuals with a shared religion. The truth is, it's pretty unique to Christianity, and specifically Protestantism, that the concepts of religion and national identity are entirely separate. Yes, there are Arab Christians and White Muslims. But followers of Islam share religious and cultural practices that, assuming they are even nominally observant, penetrate more deeply into their everyday lives. They have a separate religious calendar. They have special rules concerning their diet, which means shared stores and shops offering food that caters to their needs. They have a shared history that is so recent that it really is a history (a biased one, perhaps, with some fantastical additions, but a history nonetheless) rather than stories or myths.

I can't say what the Swiss are specifically reacting to. But I can say that what I've seen and read of America's attitudes towards Muslims, they are very much racist rather than anti-religion. There is no distinction in many of their minds between Arabs and Muslims, and all members of either group that can be identified as such (i.e. they are brown, wear the necessary accoutrements, and/or speak in a foreign language) are feared and instantly suspect. Did you hear Barack Obama has been having this problem? Apparently a man who birthers argue was born in Kenya (80% Christian/10% Muslim, 99%+ African/less than 1% Arab) is, alternatively, Arab or Muslim. I highly doubt that they would raise an issue about a white Muslim who dressed in secular garb and made no show about his religious identity. And that is the whole point. "We don't care what religion you are, just so long as we don't have to notice it."

(And where the one sentence of English that everyone knew was 'welcome to Egypt').

Liar!!! They all said "Welcome in Egypt", and you know it.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:26 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


yoyo, you haven't said anything that hasn't been said about every wave of immigrants ever ever. Ever! They're responsible for all the crime, they siphon off all the welfare, etc. Excuse me for being totally uncompelled by your hatemongering and unsubstantiated handwavy generalizations. OMG no I don't want to be kicked in the face by angry brown dudes CLOSE THE BORDERS!!1
posted by prefpara at 4:26 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like minarets and other religious structures. I don't practice any of the religions associated with those.

But I don't have any problem with a region restricting its architecture, religious or otherwise. The US is full of such restrictions, some places McDonald's can't have the golden arches, other places your lawn must be mowed and green, still others ban lawns altogether.

I don't think that freedom of religion implies architectural freedom as well.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 4:27 PM on November 29, 2009


psycho-alchemy, as has been pointed out many times, this isn't about restricting a specific excess; there were already laws governing the construction of religious buildings. This isn't about aesthetics, this is about targeting the most recognizable visual element of the religious buildings of a minority immigrant group. If you asked a kid (at least an American kid, maybe I'm assuming with Swiss kids but I'd bet they would too) to draw a mosque, they would probably include a minaret. Just like if you asked them to draw a church, they'd probably have a steeple. Is it critical to the purpose or aesthetics of a mosque? Naw. Does it do anything to offend the aesthetic tastes of the rest of Switzerland? Nope. Does banning them send a message to Turkish and Yugoslav immigrants? Yeah, it sure does.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 4:47 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


This isn't like banning billboards or loudspeaker trucks or residential waterparks where these don't hold spiritual or cultural significance.

Talk about religious discrimination! The War on BeachBoysWaterparksism must stop!
posted by billysumday at 4:48 PM on November 29, 2009


This is an astoundingly terrible idea. Just awful. What do they think is going to happen once this goes into effect? Do they think Muslims in Switzerland are all gonna go "Oh, jeez, I guess we should tone it down." I hope not because that would mean a significant majority of Swiss voters should not be trusted to handle sporks responsibly. Now radical Muslims get to go back into their mosques and say "See? They ARE persecuting us! We need to fight them to get equal rights in this country!" And they'll be right.

Also, when you say you want to "preserve your cultural heritage" I mentally photoshop Klan robes onto you. I'd say I was sorry for that, but I'm not.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 5:10 PM on November 29, 2009


Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches? No. Is that FPP-worthy?

First comment ignorant.
posted by caddis at 5:11 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is an astoundingly terrible idea. Just awful. What do they think is going to happen once this goes into effect? Do they think Muslims in Switzerland are all gonna go "Oh, jeez, I guess we should tone it down."

To my thinking they are very clearly sending a "message" to Muslims to not move to Switzerland because they won't be going to a minaret-ed mosque if they do. Whether or not the Swiss were subtle about it compared to other nations would have been my preferred thread, rather than the fake American moral superiority on display.
posted by Brian B. at 5:27 PM on November 29, 2009


Whether or not the Swiss were subtle about it compared to other nations would have been my preferred thread, rather than the fake American moral superiority on display.

Its a shame then, that this isn't your thread. The high horse however, is all yours.
posted by anansi at 5:29 PM on November 29, 2009


Man, I wish I had my citizenship already so I could vote against this kind of idiocy.
posted by bettafish at 5:39 PM on November 29, 2009


Idiots who believe in magic sky men come in all colors, friend.

I'm not your friend.

You're being deliberately obtuse. To the Swiss who voted against minarets, Islam = brown, foreign people.

In regards to "idiots who believe in magic sky men", you're being disrespectful. Just because you probably follow Dawkins or whatever skeptic is popular this week does not mean you have to denigrate people who have specific beliefs that do not infringe on yours.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:57 PM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


In regards to "idiots who believe in magic sky men", you're being disrespectful.

You don't say.
posted by billysumday at 6:05 PM on November 29, 2009


yoyo --

Having been to both Switzerland and Gaza, as a Jew I was significantly more worried for my safety in Switzerland. Let me assure you, it had *nothing* to do with Muslims. Being neutral during WWII is morally ambiguous at best. The country seems not to have progressed past this.
posted by stoneweaver at 6:05 PM on November 29, 2009


Being neutral during WWII is morally ambiguous at best.

Why? Should they have fought with the Germans against the Russians?



Having been to both Switzerland and Gaza, as a Jew I was significantly more worried for my safety in Switzerland.

When was the last time a Jew has been physically attacked on the streets in Switzerland?

Hint: try France with it huge Muslim population instead.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:11 PM on November 29, 2009


SEE?!?! This is what I'm talking about. To a large number of people on Metafilter, Islam is not a religion, but a race of people. I find that to be slightly racist, myself. Idiots who believe in magic sky men come in all colors, friend.
posted by billysumday at 1:00 PM on November 29 [has favorites +] [!]


see, a bunch of racists favorited that hateful comment. Hate begets hate. Instead of fearing these minarets the citizens of Switzerland should learn a bit of tolerance.
posted by caddis at 6:38 PM on November 29, 2009


It's racist if I don't think that Islam is a race of people?

You win the internet.
posted by billysumday at 6:40 PM on November 29, 2009


To my thinking they are very clearly sending a "message" to Muslims to not move to Switzerland because they won't be going to a minaret-ed mosque if they do. Whether or not the Swiss were subtle about it compared to other nations would have been my preferred thread, rather than the fake American moral superiority on display.

I guess I'd have to say that the First Amendment is morally superior to a system that allows the populace to outlaw minarets. I don't give a damn if the Swiss were subtle with it or not. If the message is "we don't want Muslims moving here," then I'm back to: terrible idea. If it's not racist it's at least xenophobic and I don't have much truck with either of those things.

And that's not to say that America has anything resembling a moral track record with it's Muslim immigrants. It doesn't. But any city in my country that tried to pass an ordinance like this one would be slapped back down so heard you could hear it in Switzerland, and that's a good thing. Western Civilization (lol) and the Muslims that are moving into it are going to have to figure out a way to get along. One side trying to outlaw the other in order to keep them away isn't going to work, and it'll get people hurt in the meantime.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 6:49 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Do you mind if people get kicked to death by immigrants (happens quite regularly in Germany)

As a former resident of and regular visitor to Germany - from gritty Berlin to bucolic Freiburg - I would be absolutely amazed if you could find an unbiased news source to link to that can document anything more than an isolated incident or two of this "quite regularly" occurring phenomenon.
posted by gompa at 6:59 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doublewhiskeycokenoice: "I guess I'd have to say that the First Amendment is morally superior to a system that allows the populace to outlaw minarets."

Yes, we protect our minorities here. For example, just last November a majority vote to prevent a minority group in a populous west coast state from something as basic as marrying was struck down by the Supreme Court for obvious reasons.

Oh, wait.
posted by mullingitover at 7:03 PM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


As a former resident of and regular visitor to Germany - from gritty Berlin to bucolic Freiburg - I would be absolutely amazed if you could find an unbiased news source to link to that can document anything more than an isolated incident or two of this "quite regularly" occurring phenomenon.

I know. I searched for "number of attacks on germans by immigrants" in Google and all I got was a string of articles about immigrants having the shit beaten out of them by native Germans.
posted by Talez at 7:08 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


re: "You go, Switzerland!" contingent

Disagree with them as vehemently as you'd like if they're wrong, but be thankful for any incursion of ideas that reverses the creeping ideological balkanization of the internet, if even a little. Mutually reinforced groupthink is the last thing any online community needs, even (predominantly) liberal, tolerant (in theory, if not in responses to dissenting posters) ones. None of the above contingent have behaved like trolls, including pla; and the closest thing to a flame I've read yet is "you're full of shit".

I'm not saying let's all just get along: rather, let's all continue to have it out, but be the better for it. The loss of plurality of opinion weakens democracy. Please read appropriate metaphor into lack of minarets in Swiss skylines.


Also, 57% of Swiss voters are full of shit.


(then again, our voters elected W. Twice.)
posted by theDTs at 7:12 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I know absolutely nothing relevant about this. I didn't read the linked article(s?), if it is an article. I didn't even read all of the comments in this thread. I've decided to take an impressionistic approach to metafilter.

So, apparently the Swiss have banned the construction of minarets because various hordes of Mohammedan tribespeoples have somehow gotten into Switzerland? And they want to set up some of their soi disant Casbah blasters?

It seems that something like this may not survive a serious legal challenge, though. At the risk of sounding naive, I'd say this is probably more right-wing politicians fomenting racial paranoia to rouse support than a rare moment of moral clarity amidst the ongoing dhimmification of Europe.
posted by clockzero at 7:22 PM on November 29, 2009


mullingitover, I'm with you there. America is not, as a whole, morally superior to Switzerland. However, on the issue of religious freedom, America appears to have the moral high ground. Now we could do with a heavy dose of separation of church and state and really have something to crow about.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 7:24 PM on November 29, 2009


Disagree with them as vehemently as you'd like if they're wrong, but be thankful for any incursion of ideas that reverses the creeping ideological balkanization of the internet, if even a little.

i can't wait until members of the kkk and nazi party show up here with their "ideas"

hatred of the stranger isn't an idea - an anthill can hate strangers and no one ever accused ants of having ideas
posted by pyramid termite at 7:43 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was referring to dissenting voices, not straw men. :)
posted by theDTs at 7:49 PM on November 29, 2009


@gompa

"than an isolated incident or two of"
You are wrong.

Kicked to death because of 20 cent:
http://www.morgenpost.de/printarchiv/panorama/article1177307/Jugendliche_treten_Mann_in_Hamburg_tot.html

Handicaped American exchange student assaulted in Germany (survived)
http://archiv.mopo.de/archiv/2009/20090929/hamburg/pruegel_ueberfall_auf_jura_student.html

Guy in disco beaten (died not because of the kicks but because finally a car drove over him)
http://www3.e110.de/index.cfm?event=page.detail&cid=2&fkcid=1&id=46571

Retired guy lost his health, head used as "soccer ball" while he lied on the ground:
http://www.focus.de/panorama/welt/tid-10875/u-bahn-schlaeger-beschimpft-bespuckt-und-fast-getoetet_aid_313505.html


You will seldom hear that Muslim immigrants did that. The newspapers write of "southern" immigrants (what could be people from Spain, Italy, Portugal etc.) because they don't want to stir anger. But everybody knows. Sometimes these people, called Ahmud, Mohammad or whatever are actually getting "new names" like Peter or Franz in the newspapers who write about their crimes.

You probably find hundreds of cases in this (controversial) website: http://www.pi-news.net
Guess why they don't have a DE (German) domain?

And no, I don't dislike Muslim immigrants nor their religion. But I believe in strong property rights and people who commit crimes in Germany and are not German citizen should be removed. ASAP. Germany and Europe need actually MORE immigrants. But instead of dreaming of left-wing multicultural welfare-state societies the society should carefully select who is allowed to come and allowed to stay. I am an immigrant myself and I expect nothing else.

To make things worse, Germany has very strict gun laws. You are now even allowed to walk around with a gun, even owning one at home is very difficult. Again something, were the Swiss are far superior. Every male who served in the Swiss army has his assault rifle including ammunition at home. At the same time they have one of the lowest crime rates. THIS I call freedom. The only thing I will never forgive the Swiss is that they finally joined the UN in 2002.

Yes, I have a German passport (but don't live there, thanks god) but I would trade it ANYTIME for a Swiss one. Any takers?
posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:54 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't find the minus sign?

It looks like this: [!]


I think you should waste the mods times flagging comments like that. They are the guys legitimate opinion, and he rightfully should be linked to them.

Anyway this thread has been great, full of hilariously incoherent arguments.

"Afghanistan doesn't let Christians build churches, so Switzerland should be able to build mosques"

"tax as dhimmis..."

"there is a coming civil war in Europe so we should ban the building of minarets"

Plus an unironic use of SHEEPLE!!!

epic toast.
posted by afu at 8:05 PM on November 29, 2009


Whether or not the Swiss were subtle about it compared to other nations would have been my preferred thread, rather than the fake American moral superiority on display.

Uhh - did you know there are minarets here in Washington DC? Nothing fake about that.
posted by newdaddy at 8:12 PM on November 29, 2009


Here yoyo_nyc just go already and spare us your paranoid fantasies about the UN.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:25 PM on November 29, 2009


Aren't beat-downs perpetrated by anyone outside of the Afar Triangle ultimately done by immigrants?
posted by maxwelton at 8:46 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apologies for the previous post lacking proper italics. Here it is again.

And that's not to say that America has anything resembling a moral track record with it's Muslim immigrants. It doesn't. But any city in my country that tried to pass an ordinance like this one would be slapped back down so heard you could hear it in Switzerland, and that's a good thing. Western Civilization (lol) and the Muslims that are moving into it are going to have to figure out a way to get along. One side trying to outlaw the other in order to keep them away isn't going to work, and it'll get people hurt in the meantime.

Imagining that the Swiss are stuck with a problem they can't handle without violating the sanctity of American moral superiority was my point. Thank you for that. And considering we're still at war inside two Muslim nations and mulling over a third, the track record on immigrants is missing the point, and Gaza is not so subtle either. Also, Americans have succeeded in passing ordinances against steeples in the past, perhaps you meant to the flatter the judges instead. "Learning to get along" in this context is neither a certainty, nor necessarily a productive idea in the long run, simply because religious assimilation is what most dominant cultures imagined they were doing most of the time when they thought it was a "good thing" while avoiding assimilation is what many of those immigrants have in mind. I think what is common are people assuming that nobody would hate a culture and then try to move there, as if they were originally flattered by it and then can't get past the hurt of being beaten at a survival game.
posted by Brian B. at 8:51 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Listening to people talk about the percentage of crime committed in Germany by Muslim immigrants gives me the same queasy feeling as when American racists talk about the number of crimes committed by blacks. There's no additional discussion of factors like poverty or systematic denial of education and opportunity. No, there's just an identifiable group that is expected to take collective responsibility for the misbehavior of a member because it is consistent with hateful stereotypes of that group.

It's disgusting, and, moreover, in this instance, it has nothing to do with minarets in Switzerland.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:58 PM on November 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Also, Americans have succeeded in passing ordinances

don't you read what you link to? or look at the pictures?

there was no ordinance involved, but a lawsuit and the people who brought the suit lost, so the steeple was built
posted by pyramid termite at 9:03 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


there was no ordinance involved, but a lawsuit and the people who brought the suit lost, so the steeple was built

Then read this one, it has few pictures.
posted by Brian B. at 9:13 PM on November 29, 2009


"Learning to get along" in this context is neither a certainty, nor necessarily a productive idea in the long run, simply because religious assimilation is what most dominant cultures imagined they were doing most of the time when they thought it was a "good thing" while avoiding assimilation is what many of those immigrants have in mind. I think what is common are people assuming that nobody would hate a culture and then try to move there, as if they were originally flattered by it and then can't get past the hurt of being beaten at a survival game.

I don't really understand what you're driving at. I think you're saying that it's fine for the Swiss to decide that they don't want Muslims immigrating into their country anymore, and so it's ok if they start chipping away at the rights of Muslims in order to stem the tide. If that's true, that's morally repugnant. The neighbors of that LDS church did not file a claim on the basis of a "steeple ordinance" violation, but under a facially neutral eyesore ordinance. If the Swiss want one of those then more power to 'em, but it's the singling out of one religion in particular that I then get up the gumption to say "no, my country's system is better."

If the Swiss can't hang in your "survival game" then that's their problem. Right now they're throwing out the only things that would protect them if your Muslim Nightmare Scenario ever came to pass.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:20 PM on November 29, 2009


It's weird, because if I heard about something like this in the states, I would be frothing at the mouth angry. But somehow I can't feel anger towards the Swiss. I mean if 57% of Swiss people are crypto-racists then that's their choice.

If Muslims all over the world decide to burn effigies and storm consuls over some silly comics, I guess that's their choice too.

In America we've created this open arms immigration narrative, I don't think it's fair to foist it on other countries. As Americans we've never been homogeneous. We're used to immigrants coming in from all over the world, and we've never handled it that well either.

I just think it's totally up to the Swiss. If they decide to prevent the immigration of any racial or religious group, that sucks, but it's up to them. Sure there are a bunch of different language groups in Switzerland, but when it comes down to it, they're all white Christians. If they want to keep it that way, its their choice.

I mean this is a real issue. Obviously it's creating a lot of trouble in The Netherlands, France, Denmark, England and Switzerland. There is a real fear among what we'd consider "traditional" Europeans. I'm not saying it's justified, but I don't think we can judge them from where we're standing.

This is completely anecdotal. But I had two college friends, both of whom were anthropology majors. One moved to the Netherlands, one moved to France. Now they are both what I'd consider uncomfortably anti-muslim. When I talk to them online, they say some things that I know they would have been disgusted to hear 5-6 years ago. They tell me that I can't understand until I experience the culture clash for myself.

I'm just saying that the situation is complicated, and it's hard for the Americans here to understand. Our sense of what's American is pretty ephemeral. People like the French have a very strong sense of national identity that they want to maintain. I can't put myself into their shoes, but I can't really raise any disgust towards their sentiments either.
posted by Telf at 9:23 PM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


I read it, I still don't really get what you're trying to say.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:23 PM on November 29, 2009


If the Swiss can't hang in your "survival game" then that's their problem. Right now they're throwing out the only things that would protect them if your Muslim Nightmare Scenario ever came to pass.

This is a double bind and no protections were presently assumed to exist to throw out.
posted by Brian B. at 9:32 PM on November 29, 2009


Some points from a Muslim refugee who might have ended up in Switzerland (namely me):

Minarets aren't places of worship, they are big audio billboards announcing worship time.

Mosques are where you go to practice Islam, and they don't seem to be at risk here.


So are steeples, as others have mentioned. And minarets in Switzerland do not "have audio," so this is, at best, a totally misplaced comment. The latter half of this comment isn't exactly reassuring. Most of the great pogroms and persecutions of minorities in Europe have started with baby steps. And on reading the news about this, I was reminded of the old laws - based overtly in anti-Semitism - which existed throughout much of Europe, about the building of synagogues. These were (in essence) that synagogues could not approach the height of Christian churches, which is why many old synagogues I've visited in Europe have ground floors below ground level . . . to keep the synagogues "low" enough, they had to set the buildings several feet down. It always struck me as ridiculous, the lengths to which hateful and ass-headed people will go to oppress, intimidate and harrass minorities. This Swiss thing shows that these attitudes have persisted. It's sad.

"Forced marriages and other things like cemeteries separating the pure and impure – we don't have that in Switzerland and we don't want to introduce it," said Ulrich Schlüer, co-president of the Initiative Committee to ban minarets.

Switzerland isn't without Catholics(!), who traditionally don't allow those "impure" in the eyes of the Church - through having divorced, or having been excommunicated or having a child out of wedlock or having committed suicide (among other things) to be buried in their "pure" consecrated graveyards. Please explain what the difference is to me!

So I'll gladly support the Swiss in their decision to tell Sharia (as entirely distinct from Islam) where to stick their towers of oppression, and only wish the rest of the western world would catch on before we find ourselves paying tax as dhimmi.

Muslims can and do worship formally just about anywhere - more so (in a ritualized sense, at least) that Christians do. So they don't "need" mosques and minarets, any more than adherents to other belief systems need their temples or churches or what have you. Minarets exist because they had a purpose once and are simply a part of what a mosque "is," exactly in the same way that churches are still built with steeples - but no church bells. (And contrary to what pla states, many Muslims across the world still rely on the call to prayer from a minaret - they don't have watches or cell phones. But that's irrelevant, as these Swiss minarets do not call to prayer anyway.)

"Muslims make up about 6 percent of Switzerland's 7.5 million people. Many Swiss Muslims are refugees from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Fewer than 13 percent practice their religion, the government says, and Swiss mosques do not broadcast the call to prayer outside their buildings."

So everyone ranting and raving about the jihadi and Islamic fundamentalists is simply exposing gross ignorance of the facts relevant here. Only about one out of eight Swiss Muslims actually even practices their religion. This is about the same thing in Bosnia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia, where most of these Swiss Muslims come from. For from being jihadi terrorists, these Swiss Muslims are victims of terrorism. That's why they're in Switzerland in the first place. They were displaced, suffered from seeing their men and boys killed (many Swiss Muslims are from places like Srebenica), their houses pillaged, destroyed and burnt. Many suffered rape, "camps," beating, torture and starvation. The lucky ones managed to flee ahead of those tragedies, leaving everything behind.

I should add that most of these crimes happened under the banner of Serbian / Croatian nationalism which didn't differ too much, at first, from what the right-wing Swiss People's Party that sponsored this referendum are doing, as well as (Christian) religious sponsorship, especially from the Serbian Orthodox Church, who supported the genocide of Yugoslavia's Muslims openly, and sheltered war criminals like Karadzic after the truth was clear to everyone.

So anyone with a "gung-ho, Switzerland!" attitude is either an idiot unaware of who the real victims in this situation were (and appear to be, once again.) Or they simply take pleasure in the harrassment (at best) of one "people" over another. Both groups make me embarrassed to be a member of the same species as them.

Switzerland's historic "neutrality," organized operations, liberal banking laws and stunning Alpine beauty afforded them an alluring reputation they don't truly deserve. They've always been a fairly conservative people, often in an offensive way. When did all Swiss women get the vote? 1920? 1930? 1940? No. 1971! They helped the Nazis launder money. And there's this, from the BBC:

A survey in Switzerland suggests that anti-semitism remains deeply rooted in the country.

It indicates that 16% of Swiss people are fundamentally anti-semitic, while 60% have anti-semitic sympathies.

The US and Swiss Jewish organisations behind the survey say it shows the wave of anti-semitism that hit Switzerland in 1998 over the return of dormant bank accounts to Holocaust survivors has not died down.


Yeah, we Swiss hate the Jews because we had to give back the money we stole from them!

That's ultimately the mentality at work here, with one minority subsituted for another.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:53 PM on November 29, 2009 [42 favorites]


"Survival game"? There is no "survival game," not here. The Muslim population is a minority of less than 1/20 of the total population made up of over 85% guest workers and refugees from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey. If the Swiss had banned those see-through interlocking Star of David walls you see as a visual element in synagogues all of Metafilter would be up in arms. This isn't about a loss of Swiss identity or even a real fear of loss of Swiss identity, this isn't about architecture, this is about a far-right party - shockingly successfully - stirring up racist sentiment.

I'm sorry if, as an American, I'm unable to comment on this because California passed Proposition 8 or because I'm not from somewhere that experiences "national identity" and therefore I can never understand the horrors of seeing minarets, but this is completely appalling.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 10:12 PM on November 29, 2009


Or, uh, on my failure to preview, I'm just gonna favorite Dee Xtrovert here.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 10:14 PM on November 29, 2009


Well, damn, yoyo, have you proven me wrong. Four unrelated incidents in three different cities over the course of 15 months in a nation of 80 million? Plus winking allusions to the truth that dare not speak its name or something? It's a goddamn epidemic. An insurrection. Run for the hills, and hope you can make the safe minaret-free haven of Switzerland in time!

I mean, sure, here in Canada we had the "Summer of the Gun" back in '05 - when there twenty drive-by shootings in a two-week period in just one city, mainly due to a gang war that stretched back to Jamaica - and we somehow managed to survive it without banning dreadlocks, dancehall reggae and jerk spices nationwide. But four random incidents linked only by innuendo? There's barely anything you could call German society left in the face of bloodshed on that kind of unprecedented scale.

Gehen Sie mit Gott, tapferer Soldat. Die Schweiz erwartet.
posted by gompa at 10:19 PM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Swiss are fucking pussies. Trying to mask blatantly xenophobic tendencies by making architectural criticisms? God damn amateurs.

What did we do when we didn't want a mosque in the Swan Valley? We got the traditional owners of the land to complain! You know? The people we basically slaughtered? Yeah they were so cool with it. Enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that.

You need to fight fire with fire, Switzerland! The only thing that can overcome liberal guilt regarding tolerance is to bring in a more oppressed underclass to play on liberal guilt!

/sigh

I hate the human race sometimes.
posted by Talez at 10:23 PM on November 29, 2009


Funny, but in all the interviews with voters I've seen ,hardly any of them cite minarets as a reason why they voted for the ban, even one of the PP spokesmen was whittering away about how this would stop Sharia law.

p.s. Aren't mountain people usually racist?
posted by jeffburdges


Well, I'm from the English Lake District, which is the spiritual home of the Quakers, so I guess the answer is, perhaps not.
posted by quarsan at 10:47 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


However, on the issue of religious freedom, America appears to have the moral high ground

In theory, perhaps, but in practise all I see is an culture of current and would-be officials circle-jerking on who's the most religious.
posted by rodgerd at 11:01 PM on November 29, 2009


Many people here seem to have an idea of Switzerland that isn't all that accurate. They are xenophobic. That's an unfortunate state, but some of the sentiments expressed here amount to condemning a people for how they think/feel. I think this makes them not much better than that which they criticize. Xenophobia is a reality, however unfortunate. You don't fight it with more hate.

Switzerland is a place of rapid growth. Just to see some examples, check out the difference between Google aerial photos and those more up-to-date ones at Map Search.ch. For your convenience, I've pre-focused the map on the city of Zug. It's where I live, and an area of growth, owing to extremely low taxation. Map Search is out-of-date too, but not nearly so much as Google. To be fair, Google's photos are unreasonably old, my building isn't there, but is on Map Search, and my building is at least 5 years old (I'm not certain). Cranes are everywhere, building new things.

Rapid growth makes problems. Surprise! There are those who love it for the money, and those who resent it for the changes it brings. But that's the reality of what is happening here.

But Switzerland isn't the "liberal" state some seem to assume. It's a place where it is perfectly legal to advertise a home/apartment for rent, and state you "prefer Swiss families". It is a place where you can get in trouble for daring to flush the toilet after 10pm, or doing the laundry on Sunday. (varies with building and location. I'm fortunate to live in a nice building with people who don't care about such customs).

Switzerland is also a European country (however, very much not European Union) that hasn't been leveled by bombs. There are plenty of extremely old buildings. This is part of what drives the tourism industry. Different people may have voted for this referendum for different reasons. Some undoubtedly out of a pure desire to preserve that which is beautiful. No doubt the bills wicked sponsors had that in mind as a strategy. Country folk who probably didn't think of the fact that those gorgeous small towns with their picturesque old Swiss architecture weren't likely candidates for minarets in the first place.

I think discussions condemning Swiss xenophobia actually are a stupid waste of time, and only obfuscate the real point, which is the existence of yet another party in another European country which is using stinking filthy Nazi tactics of hate-mongering to further its cause. That is the real cause for concern. And that stain isn't new to the so-called "Western World". And it's a problem to which even the United States has been a victim.
posted by Goofyy at 12:18 AM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a Swiss friend pointed out to me today is that many of the xenophobes who are stirring up the 'OMG Terrorist threat' rhetoric around this issue are making money selling arms to .... terrorists. On the same day that the Swiss people had to vote on the anti-minaret issue, there was a vote on banning the export of military material, which didn't pass.

Also, for all of you saying this has nothing to do with race, or trying to stir up fear of 'others' - did you actually look at the posters?
posted by Megami at 2:16 AM on November 30, 2009


God. The open racism and bigotry on display in this thread really depresses me. Normally I expect MeFi to be better than that, but much of what's been said here makes me doubt whether I should. Props, though, to (among others) Dee Xtrovert and Abiezer for partially restoring my faith in this place.
posted by Len at 2:47 AM on November 30, 2009


Abiezer You mean sources other than the publication of a bizarrely bewhiskered Belgian crypto-fascist?

Indeed. Except that there's very little "crypto" about Beliën (and I'm sure that he'd himself object to being called "Belgian"). As I once posted, he's (quite literally) in bed with an openly racist party with roots in the "St. Maartensfonds" association of Flemish Waffen SS veterans.

How Jewish neocons like Steyn ended up "allied" to a notorious nest of neo- (and not-so-neo-) Nazis like Vlaams Belang, a party which is spurned by every other party in Belgium, including their fellow Flemish separatists of N-VA and the right-wing populists of LDD, is one of the great mysteries of the post 9/11 world.
posted by Skeptic at 3:23 AM on November 30, 2009


Dee Xtrovert: When did all Swiss women get the vote? 1920? 1930? 1940? No. 1971!
That's only at a federal level. Suffrage at all levels in all provinces came only in 1990 and only after a Supreme Court ruling.

Here's what I'm hoping will happen here. Note that, while this 'no minarets' thing is part of the Swiss constitution, it isn't law: the (I'm presuming federal) government still needs to draw up a *law* to define what a minaret is and what the fine is if someone chooses to build one. I'm hoping the government will define this law to be so generic and the punishment so simplistic, that it'll render the constitutional amendment meaningless.

Constitutions of the world's nations have some ridiculous measures that nobody cares about. For instance, as I recall, there's some obscure section in the Indian Penal Code which fines restaurants the princely sum of two paisa for not serving water to their clients. Nobody cares about this, and I'd be surprised if anyone was ever charged under the section.

From a legal standpoint, the Swiss branches of government have their work cut out. Looking at numbers holistically, 57% of 52% (which is the voting populace) is about 29%, or about 2,244,339 people from a total population of about 7.5 mil. A more pressing concern for Switzerland, as I see it, is how 29% of the population have captured their country's "brand" in this tourist-obsessed country. Minarets or otherwise, bigotry doesn't really gel that well with globalization and all that jazz.
posted by the cydonian at 4:08 AM on November 30, 2009


Maybe there wouldn't be so many Muslims living in Switzerland if the whole of Europe hadn't stood by in shameful mealy-mouthed cowardice while Serbia carried out yet another 20th century genocide.

The idea that this was a vote against Sharia law is absurd. Find me a Bosnian or an Albanian who knows more about Sharia law than I do Catholic canon law (i.e. not very much) and I'll be a-fuckin'-stonished.

This "dhimmi" stuff is also a big red flag that marks someone who hasn't got a clue what they're talking about to me. You know, this is an obscure historical term from hundreds of years ago that has been dug up by xenophobic nut-jobs as proof of an absurd conspiracy where Muslims want to dominate "us". The kind of people who believe this stuff are the kind that sit around late at night drinking only rainwater and distilled grain alcohol, terrified that Al Qaeda is going to decapitate all their alpen horns and turn their rosti pans into water pipes.
posted by atrazine at 4:49 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Atrazine, you're absolutely right. I especially liked this:

Maybe there wouldn't be so many Muslims living in Switzerland if the whole of Europe hadn't stood by in shameful mealy-mouthed cowardice while Serbia carried out yet another 20th century genocide.

How true. The Serbs killed my parents, and the reason I'm in America is because of them too. Europe - and America - bear much of the blame for setting into motion the events which started the war, not allowing Bosnia (a sovereign nation recognized by the relevant parties) to buy any arms (which allowed the well-equipped Serbian army to engage in genocide with no fear of defense) and all the while promising that "help was on the way." When it wasn't. Ironically, this gross act of "Christian" terrorism was never allowed to be seen as such. But today, even after 9/11 and many incidents American military has suffered at the hands of jihadis in Iraq and Afghanistan, guess what?

There is a substantially greater number of "Muslims" living in America who experienced the brutality of "Christian" terrorism (violent death of loved ones, forced resettlement, rape and so on) than there are of "Christians" in America who experienced similar "Muslim" terrorism - and this despite the fact the number of American "Muslims" is a tiny fragment of the number of American "Christians."

And that's not even getting into the rest of the world.

The religious terms are in quotes because I think its misleading to characterize a lot of what goes on as having anything, really, to do with religion. Those "Muslim" 9/11 criminals were not Muslim. The genocidal Serbs were not Christians. But if you want to talk about "Muslim" terrorists, at least be consistent and view "Christian" actions in the same light.

This is from today's Washington Post:

But backers of the measure said from the outset they were not seeking to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion. The goal, they explained, was to prevent what they described as the growing political impact of Switzerland's Muslim minority, which they said is symbolized by minarets pointing into the sky; women wearing full veils; and observance of sharia, a Koran-based legal system.

By virtue of Sarajevo being by fair the biggest "Muslim" city of the former Yugoslavia, where most of the Swiss Muslims come from, it's probably a fair assumption that there are more former Sarajevan Muslims in Switzerland than from any other city on the planet, give or take. So as a former Sarajevan myself, allow me to point out that:

1) Unlike Switzerland, Sarajevo has always let minarets issue a call to prayer. And we've always allowed both Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches ring the bells from their steeples - even when Sarajevo was being attacked by "Christians."

2) Again, very few Muslims in Switzerland even practice the religion - about one in eight.

3) Switzerland's mostly Bosnian Muslim community does not and has never been supportive of or influenced by "sharia" law. Those Bosnian Muslims who *do* practice Islam, follow a form more like Sufism, but even more open-minded and less dogmatic, more 'mystical.' Most Bosnian Muslims, for instance, drink - many quite heavily! And though pork is not very "popular" (and thus harder to find), most Bosnian Muslims, myself included, are not averse to a nice bit of schnitzel or bacon when it's offered . . .

4) Very few Bosnian Muslim women have ever worn veils - it's just not part of our cultural tradition. I was surprised to see a few women doing so when I returned to Sarajevo for the first time in about thirteen years. It turned out that all these women were actually aid workers from the Middle East or wives of diplomats (etc) . . . in other words, not Bosnian at all.

5) Let me get that quote straight. They're not trying to prevent Muslims from practicing (which few do anyway in Switzerland.) They're attempting to "prevent . . . the growing political impact of Switzerland's Muslim minority" by destroying Muslim symbols - and warping what these symbols are?

Isn't this just what the Nazis did to the Jews at first?

First they falsely created "symbols" that put Jews in a bad light. You know, cartoons with Jews and their great big hooked noses, hands curling around each other to show the physical manifestations of the nearly genetic Jewish lust for money. Movies like "Der Ewige Jude."

Then came the marginalization of Jews - quotas on university enrollment (later, an outright ban), curfews, the forbidding of public park or ice cream shop visits. The yellow star on jackets.

Some MeFites have already chosen to champion the "truth" of the new false symbols the Swiss have created for "their" Muslims. Some MeFites actually support this early step of (openly admitted!) attempts to marginalize the voice of a select part of the Swiss population. I can just imagine how these same MeFites would have justified their support of Nazi Germany in the 1930's.

It's fucking incredible to see it here. And really heartbreaking, too.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:46 AM on November 30, 2009 [35 favorites]


In America we've created this open arms immigration narrative, I don't think it's fair to foist it on other countries.

it's not fair to say we've foisted it on other countries - they foist it on themselves when they let immigrants in - as a practical matter, you can't really let a bunch of people into your country and not expect them to express their cultural heritage - or, if there's enough of them, throw them out without causing massive disruption - many europeans (and some americans) want the labor, but they don't want the people

it doesn't work that way - and america (and some other countries) have a model that works fairly well

i could say that europe has a choice to make but what many don't realize is they've already made that choice when they let the people in
posted by pyramid termite at 6:11 AM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've argued on here before (during the wave of wildcat strikes at oil refineries in the UK for one) that I'm not opposed to civic conversations about immigration in Europe and how best to handle it legislatively or whatever, where it does have social consequences that are legitimate concerns, but to be frank if it's a choice between giving aid and comfort to racists or blithely subscribing to the neo-liberal uses of migration to attack wages and conditions, I'd take my chances with the latter (although I don't think it has to be either/or).
As noted above, there's something both insidious and chickenshit about this tangential attack on a cultural symbol rather than having the full and frank public debate in the first place.
posted by Abiezer at 6:28 AM on November 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


That makes immigration limits the sensible policy debate, but that's going to be rife with racism and accusations of racism. If the concerns are about how well a European nation can assimilate outsiders, then the prospect of a blanket increased limit doesn't need to come up; there's no need to limit immigration from elsewhere in Europe, or the Americas. The culture is broadly similar, and there is more or less a common tradition of equality, rule of law, religious, political freedom, etc.

But, this in effect, will allow mostly rich and white/hispanic migration while curtailing others. That certainly wouldn't fly with a lot of people here. What else could you do? Allow only immigration from democracies? What about people specifically trying to escape tyranny? Allow immigration from countries that recognize the equality of women? What about families trying to escape that repression? Perhaps exemptions can be made for that. How can you screen for people who are compatiable with the West's freedoms?

How do European nations do it now? Is there one big list, and it's first come, first serve? Are there limits per country; (we'll let in 10,000 Americans, 20,000 Brits, 1,000 Iranians, 500 Syrians, etc).
posted by spaltavian at 7:38 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree the debate would be rife with racism - it certainly has been to date any way. But it shouldn't be; for me the legitimate concerns are things like pressure on social housing, medical provision and other resource issues in welfare states, plus as noted above the uses of immigration to undercut wages and conditions. And my solution would start with something along the lines of better funding for the above welfare goods so that the false perception that decline in access to them is in any sense the fault of migrants, rather than the drift of policy since the 70s (in the UK at least).
As to quotas or whatever, personally I wouldn't take 'culture' into account at all. If our 'native' society (whatever that is) is so feeble as to collapse at the first glimpse of a brown person then it wasn't much to begin with. It's not the plantation of Ulster we're talking here. But there may well be an absolute number of persons that can annually be absorbed without disruption, and it's reasonable to debate that I think.
posted by Abiezer at 7:56 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I first read the posted link, I applauded in my head the same way I would have if the Swiss legislated against building Golden Arches or Scientology buildings. However I quickly came to see that there is a dark underbelly to this story and my approbation was given too soon. After reading this thread I am left with more questions than when I started.

Isn't this just what the Nazis did to the Jews at first?

Moral equivalency rears its head again. It is admirable to think that all cultures are equally valid, but I don't believe they are. My over-riding concern with followers of Islam is the imposition of Sharia law. Dee, you tell me that Bosnian women did not wear scarves in the past, yet that doesn't reassure me. The suppression of women in Egypt, which was formally the belly dancing capitol of the world, is frightening to me because it shows that women can lose rights even in a modern society. Honestly, I would be glad if you could show me that I am ignorant and ill-informed because I hate the fact that in my mind Islam is inseparable with forcing women into second class citizenship..
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:07 AM on November 30, 2009


The suppression of women in Egypt, which was formally the belly dancing capitol of the world, is frightening to me because it shows that women can lose rights even in a modern society.

I would suggest that if the extent of your knowledge of women in Egypt is that they were once belly dancers, you might benefit from educating yourself a little more about the Muslim world before publicly airing your concerns that they apparently act as some unanimous, unambiguous, inevitable force of repression.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:11 AM on November 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dee Xtrovert, thanks for the perspective. This is a sad day for Switzerland.

I just did a search for images of minarets and a search for images of Orthodox church steeples. I sincerely hope that every mosque in Switzerland that doesn't have a minaret already puts in a building permit request for an Orthodox church steeple. Then they can let the lawyers figure out how to interpret whatever bullshit law gets implemented in a way that isn't explicitly discriminatory.
posted by Killick at 9:02 AM on November 30, 2009


Nate Silver chimes in with some stats and analysis, along with one of his Swiss co-contributors.
posted by gimonca at 9:11 AM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Second link's an interesting read there, gimonica - those cantons with more foreigners were most likely to reject the ban, even though 'foreigners' (who may be second- or third-generation Swiss residents) can't vote. Pleased to see Jura nearly lived up to its radical history.
posted by Abiezer at 10:11 AM on November 30, 2009


those cantons with more foreigners were most likely to reject the ban, even though 'foreigners' (who may be second- or third-generation Swiss residents) can't vote

That's a known phenomenon, isn't it? Witness the studies showing that as little exposure as watching the execrable Will and Grace has a positive impact on how people respond to homosexuals.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:26 AM on November 30, 2009


Many people here seem to have an idea of Switzerland that isn't all that accurate. They are xenophobic. That's an unfortunate state, but some of the sentiments expressed here amount to condemning a people for how they think/feel. I think this makes them not much better than that which they criticize.

Wait. It's wrong to condemn xenophobes? I think I'll continue to condemn xenophobes, racists, homophobes, etc, thanks.
posted by kmz at 10:30 AM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


spaltavian : Immigration is "for cause" not by quota, but they "profile" by nationality. Chinese students are commonly denied U.S. student visas because soo many Chinese students have violated student visas and/or sought employment.

Afaik, asylum, economics, collaboration, and family are the only underlying reasons for immigration. Collaboration only applies very highly trained people like academics or corporate executives who already have jobs, so ignore that one. Economic refers to immigration that adds liquidity to the labor pool, either highly skilled labor, or less skilled labor. Asylum refers to immigration that protects important people from persecution. Oh, there are also visas for religious workers which I bitched about unthread.

Imho, Europe's underlying problem has been using "fake" asylum cases to supply needed economic immigration, i.e. they are admitting fairly undesirable economic immigrants because they marginally fit the asylum requirements.

Why fake asylum cases? Easy, the unions, racists, etc. cannot object so easily. You'll get voted out of office if you say that companies need cheaper labor.

Why are fake asylum cases bad? Easy again, your choosing immigrants just because their home country is poor, not seeking skilled workers.

Asylum cases need to be focused upon people who have actually been writers, politicians, activists, experts, etc. not just people who are poor. All other immigration should focus upon jobs where more people are needed.

I think one longer term solution for both the U.S. and Europe would creating special favorable economic migration visas for South Americans, who are pretty much culturally isomorphic with North Americans and Europeans, i.e. "Schengen light" between the Americas and Europe. I think fairly reasonable visa requirements might be (a) language proficiency and (b) university degree or significant work experience in a field that is not over represented in the host country.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:03 PM on November 30, 2009


if the extent of your knowledge of women in Egypt is that they were once belly dancers, you might benefit from educating yourself a little more about the Muslim world before publicly airing your concerns that they apparently act as some unanimous, unambiguous, inevitable force of repression.

Wow. Way to reduce my argument to the petty concerns of an ignoramous. The fact that some women in Egypt became international superstars by baring their midriffs and dancing seductively does not mean I think ALL women in Egypt were belly dancers-- it just means that once, not long ago, women were free to perform on stage in sexual revealing costumes and most women in Egypt dressed in Western style clothing. Today the face veil (niqab) and gloves are so ubiquitous that even nurses are wearing them and the government is trying to stop school girls from wearing them in class The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt is a powerful political force that is changing the way women are treated and I would advise you to educate yourself before dismissing my concerns.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:12 PM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


A Church in Saudi Arabia? (March 19, 2008):
The Vatican has confirmed that it is negotiating for permission to build the first church in Saudi Arabia...Presiding over the cradle of Islam and home to its holiest sites, the Saudi monarchy has long banned the open worship of other faiths, even as the number of Catholics resident in Saudi Arabia has risen to 800,000 thanks to an influx of immigrant workers from places like the Philippines and India.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:13 PM on November 30, 2009


Wait. It's wrong to condemn xenophobes? I think I'll continue to condemn xenophobes

:^(
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:49 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The argument that somehow (some) Muslim countries' banning churches justifies a European country banning minarets is absurd.

They hate us for our freedoms!
posted by ersatz at 12:57 PM on November 30, 2009


- it just means that once, not long ago, women were free to perform on stage in sexual revealing costumes and most women in Egypt dressed in Western style clothing. Today the face veil (niqab) and gloves are so ubiquitous that even nurses are wearing them and the government is trying to stop school girls from wearing them in class

Unfortunately, your "nurses" link doesn't work, and the "school girls" link doesn't say what you claim: it says the Ministry of Education banned university students from wearing the veil, but doesn't state that wearing of the veil in Egypt is ubiquitous, or anything close.

What you say also has very little relation to my experience of the actual situation in Egypt. Most women (a large majority) do wear western style clothes, just as Egyptian men do. The only difference is that almost all women also wear the headscarf, and wear long-sleeved shirts (so do the men, for that matter).

A minority of Egyptian women do wear full burqas and veils. But it's a minority, probably around 10% or less, from what I've seen.

I'm also not sure where you get the idea that belly-dancing in Egypt has stopped.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:40 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The argument that somehow (some) Muslim countries' banning churches justifies a European country banning minarets is absurd.

I agree. ...But this is Metafilter, and requests like "Can you give some evidence for Islamic countries banning the construction of christian churches?" should be expected to elicit response.
posted by applemeat at 1:57 PM on November 30, 2009


"Personally, I feel like minarets should be outlawed because Islam is stupid, just like all religions (Pastafarianism excluded)."

I never thought I'd see the day -- a Pastafarian fundamentalist.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:12 PM on November 30, 2009


My over-riding concern with followers of Islam is the imposition of Sharia law. Dee, you tell me that Bosnian women did not wear scarves in the past, yet that doesn't reassure me. The suppression of women in Egypt, which was formally the belly dancing capitol of the world, is frightening to me because it shows that women can lose rights even in a modern society. Honestly, I would be glad if you could show me that I am ignorant and ill-informed because I hate the fact that in my mind Islam is inseparable with forcing women into second class citizenship.

The very fact that you talk about a need for you personally to be reassured says it all. Basic human rights of equality and freedom of expression should always come before the paranoiac concerns of others - even more so when those concerns are just plain ridiculous. And yours are ridiculous, I'm sorry to say. Infinite Jest explains some of your misconceptions about Egypt - I was just there (for the first time) in September and can verify that most women don't wear burqas and veils and I had no problem walking around in Western clothing. It's not the best place to be a woman (nor the worst), but this has a lot less to do with religion than the culture of the region. Egypt's many Christian women dress - and always have - in similarly conservative styles, it's just the way it is. There are still belly dancers, but the smaller number of them (I'm guessing it's a smaller number, but I may be wrong) would have a lot more to do with the availability of more satisfactory (to modern tastes) outlets for entertainment or sexual stimulation or whatever the attraction was. America doesn't have the stagecoaches it once had, but this situation has nothing to do with a general swelling of anti-stagecoach driver sentiment, if you see what I mean. Egyptian women are better educated more likely to have any education and they have more occupational opportunities than ever before.

The situation for women is not ideal. It could be improved more rapidly. But it's probably not fair to say it's sliding back. And Egypt's problems have to do with corruption, an inept infrastructure and massive overpopulation than religion. Support - by a minority of the population - of more extremist religious / political groups is the result of the lack of opportunity, the poverty and the government's inability to manage things well. It's not too different from why Glenn Beck is so popular in America, but probably even more justifiable (to the extent it's at all justifiable) in the sense that things are still pretty okay for most Americans. (And I could frame the Glenn Beck and similar things as similarly unfriendly to women - look at the anti-abortion measures taken up in places like Oklahoma and Kansas in recent years. But somehow, that's not seen as a "danger of Christianity" to women.)

I grew up in what was then Yugoslavia. And in my city, Sarajevo, possibly the most enlightened place in Yugoslavia, and certainly the most happily and overtly multi-ethnic, women had all sorts of rights and achievements - even under Tito's rule - than women in America. In the 1950's, women had professional opportunities still widely denied women in America at the time. Most of the women in my family were doctors, at a time when women-in-the-workplace was still heatedly debated over here. Women represented people in government at the national level when there were no women in the Senate or House or the president's inncer circle. Interestingly, a lot of the very chauvinistic propaganda directed against Sarajevo by "Christian" Serbs was that we "let" our women run wild and even marry outside our religion. Such were the dangers, they claimed, of multi-cultural openness.

So you can see why your comments are insulting to me and to people who've bothered to do any research. During most of the lifetimes of MeFite members, Bosnia was one of the best places to be a woman (relative to the advantages men have.) Sarajevo was more integrated in real terms fifty years ago than America is today.

I suppose I could tell you that I am worried about a revival of the Inquisition, or with snake-handlers and tongues-speakers or local American militias who attack Islam or the panoply of television commentators who revel in grotesquely racist characterizations of all of Islam, to which you seem to have fallen prey.

I'll have to say it again. The vast majority of Swiss Muslims don't even practice their religion. The few who do tend to follow a form of the religion that's about as benign as the Protestant Church of Greenwich, Connecticut. Bosnian Muslims have no traditions of terrorism or anti-Christian activities - it's the Christian neighbors with the great recent tradition of terrorism. The Orthodox and Catholic Church bells still ring freely in Sarajevo.

And even if your concerns about Egypt were as you claim, it's got nothing to do with the Swiss Muslims, who don't practice the same form of the religion anyhow, and are (and have always been) European in outlook and actual fact, and who do not share the same underlying culture or cultural beliefs as Egyptians. So although it may not have been the most polite way to put it, when Astro Zombie wrote about "the petty concerns of an ignoramous," I found myself unconsciously nodding my head in agreement.

Americans can draw a line between culture and religion when it comes to things like South African apartheid, but they conflate all Muslims into one group, and then tend to assign the most heinous labels and perceptions to the entirety of the group. Swiss Muslims aren't Egyptians. They don't veil women. They don't know anything, really about Arabic-styled shari'a law. Most don't even practice. Please learn to make relevant distinctions; I do so for members of the "Christian" world, and do you know what? It's not that hard, and it goes a long way towards preventing me from being attacked for ignorant petty concerns.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:33 PM on November 30, 2009 [15 favorites]


I'm also not sure where you get the idea that belly-dancing in Egypt has stopped.
I saw a documentary a few years ago about how younger women were not entering the profession because of the salacious nature of the dance. Several older women who had been stars were interviewed and blamed it on the wave of fundamentalism. Maybe they exaggerated. I definitely got the idea that belly dancing was on its way out, but who knows? Maybe I was misled.

Perhaps I was also misled by this blogger who was told it was best to keep her eyes, hands and face covered in Egypt and Saudi.

And I am sorry you can't read the nurse link (it works fine for me) but here is the first paragraph:
In recent years, a self-fashioned uniform for nurses has crept onto the corridors of several state hospitals. Nurses clad from head to toe in black or white niqab (face veil), with the two peepholes over the eyes covered in gauze, have become a common sight in some hospitals. Many times patients can only make out a pair of unsterilised thick gloves emerging from two cuffs attached to a shapeless garment administering medicine and other medical procedures.
So you can see how I got the idea that the face veil is becoming more common. I was definitely under the impression that the fundamentalists were becoming more powerful and attempting to push Egypt in the direction of Saudi Arabia in regards to control over women. But I haven't been to Egypt myself and I can only go by what I can gather second-hand.

However, I am surely not imagining that Sharia law is barbaric and medieval. And not confined to the Middle East--after all, we do read of honor killings happening all over the world including Canada and the UK.

Basic human rights of equality and freedom of expression should always come before the paranoiac concerns of others - even more so when those concerns are just plain ridiculous.[...]
So you can see why your comments are insulting to me and to people who've bothered to do any research.[...]
when Astro Zombie wrote about "the petty concerns of an ignoramous," I found myself unconsciously nodding my head in agreement
.

So my concerns are petty, I'm ignorant, I'm insulting, and I am paranoid. That's a shame, because compared to most Americans I am well read and thoughtful and open to being educated.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:52 PM on November 30, 2009


Oh the irony: Steeples may have developed in Europe from exposure to Minarets. Via
posted by BinGregory at 7:39 PM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is admirable to think that all cultures are equally valid, but I don't believe they are.

i see your point

does anyone know how to do hexadecimal in roman numerals?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:40 PM on November 30, 2009


For what it's worth, the adhān (the call to prayer, which before technology was called from the minaret, but is now, in Muslim countries, done with a loudspeaker from the mosque itself), has never been broadcast from a minaret in Switzerland. Never. Not once. Not ever. Never. Just as most mosques in the U.S. do not have a loud broadcast 5 times a day. What some people are confusing with the adhān is the iqama that summons Muslims to line up for the beginning of the prayers. But that said, the iqama is not broadcast from a minaret in Switzerland either.

Adhān is called out by the muezzin in the mosque. It is a repetitive prayer which believers say silently along with the muezzin, answering only rarely. If you've ever seen/been a Catholic saying the Rosary, it's the same basic ritual. It is more a clearing of the mind to make way for God than it is anything else. (As I understand it. Note that my Lebanese family are Maronites and not Muslims, but I grew up with Muslim friends and family. Which is to say that my understanding of the faith is more than cursory, but is not complete by any stretch.)

This vote wasn't about protecting Switzerland from noisy neighbors. It wasn't about stopping the spread of radical Islamic factions. This vote was spearheaded by the hard-core right-wing Nationalists that in years past have denied the holocaust and promote neo-nazism.

This vote was xenophobia. Pure and simple and fucking tragic.
posted by dejah420 at 9:10 PM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


So I'll gladly support the Swiss in their decision to tell Sharia (as entirely distinct from Islam) where to stick their towers of oppression

Where is Sharia? Do you have his cell number? Sharia and Islam are the same thing. And, minarets are not even mentioned in the sharia. The styles and architectural elements that you see in minarets that exist today largely the result of various Ottoman tradition (that aren't particularly well documented). As far as "towers of oppression", what the heck would you call something like a downtown high rise owned by an investment bank?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:25 PM on November 30, 2009


Hate != Fear.

If you address fear in the same way you address hate, you'll get nowhere. Fear seeks comfort, hate seeks targets. You can allay someone's fears, teach them what is not to fear. If, however, you condemn the fear, you'll only manage to turn it into hate. Fear is a fragile state that is quite inclined to resolve into hate. And likely enough, a bit of that hate will be reserved for those that dismissed or condemned the fear in the first place.

You may wish to consider that there are too sets of victims of fear-based hate-mongering. There are those to which the hate is directed, but also victimized (as far as I'm concerned) are those who are being taught to fear.
posted by Goofyy at 10:26 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


How many people would support France banning McDonalds big M? Religions are very much like exploitive corporations, but yeah architecture is besides the point and the vote is racist.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:04 AM on December 1, 2009


Women led the vote against minarets. I think there was a reference to male dominant symbolism in there.
posted by Brian B. at 7:38 PM on December 1, 2009


Swiss leader calls for Jewish cemetery ban

December 3, 2009

BERLIN (JTA) -- A mainstream Swiss political leader is calling for a ban on separate Muslim and Jewish cemeteries.

Christophe Darbellay, president of the Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland, made the statement in a television interview Tuesday, two days after Swiss voters passed an initiative to ban minarets.
posted by kipmanley at 8:54 PM on December 3, 2009


RE: Swiss leader calls for Jewish cemetery ban

I would not have seen this if it had not been posted in the main feed. I am sick of seeing followups get deleted because there was a post about it a hundred years ago. I am not reading every thread from a hundred years ago in the hopes of finding late-breaking news. I have a life.
posted by clarknova at 8:56 PM on December 3, 2009


Now with that out of the way, if you read the article and ignore its headline, you'll see that Darbellay isn't calling for a ban on Jewish cemeteries, he's calling for a ban on segregated cemeteries. He wants Jews and Muslims to be buried in the same cemeteries as everyone else.

Trying to fgure out how that's xenophobic, as the article claims. Either I'm missing something or JTA is.

Incidentally, if I started an ATA and gave it the motto "The Global News Service of the Anglo People", would I be a supremacist of some sort?
posted by clarknova at 9:16 PM on December 3, 2009


clarknova, the recent activity link might be useful to you.
posted by lalex at 9:40 PM on December 3, 2009


lalex, that's literally a suggestion that I watch for and read every single post as they stream by. please refer back to the bit about my having a life.
posted by clarknova at 9:58 PM on December 3, 2009


This vote sucks balls.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:01 PM on December 3, 2009


Are Islamic countries big on Christian churches? No.

Facts to back up this assertion? None.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:03 PM on December 3, 2009


For what it's worth* here is a National Review article that gives a country by country overview of religious freedom based on a recent State Department report:
Iran "Respect for religious freedom in the country continued to deteriorate. Government rhetoric and actions created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shi’a religious groups, most notably for Baha’is, as well as Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, and members of the Jewish community. Reports of government imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on religious beliefs continued.” The state also promoted discrimination in the areas of education, employment, and housing.
I read that news story about the cemeteries yesterday but decided not to post it, because it is just one politician's bloviating in order to drum up support. Here, in America our politicians spout crap all the time and very little of it actually ends up being legislated.

On the other hand, in a constructive attempt by a European country to cope with the influx of undesirable cultural practices, Britain has enacted the Forced Marriage and Civil Protection Act.
Forced marriage and rape are symptoms of honour-based violence (HBV). Murder in the name of "honour" is the ultimate violent crime perpetuated by relatives or members of a community in order to protect or revenge "dishonourable" behaviour. Home Office figures suggest there are around 12 honour killings in the UK every year; thousands of women are killed for the same reason across the world.
* I say "for what it is worth" because what Islamic countries allow or don't allow is beside the point. The focus should be on how Europe deals with the increasing presence of Muslim culture in a traditionally Christian area. As an atheist, I am not convinced that banning the construction of new minarets is an unforgivable repression of human rights. If and when the Swiss ever start forcing Muslims to wear identifying armbands or seizing their property or imprisoning them for practicing their religion, then I will see the connection to Nazi Germany.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:17 AM on December 4, 2009


Swiss Pol Apologizes For Calling For Ban On Muslim And Jewish Cemeteries
Rachel Slajda | December 4, 2009, 12:36PM

A Swiss politician has apologized today for calling for a ban on Jewish and Muslim cemeteries two days after the country voted to outlaw minarets on mosques.

"I am sorry. I didn't mean it like that," said Christopher Darbellay, president of the Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland, a centrist party and the smallest member of the government coalition.

"It was about the principle that we all belong to the same Swiss society," he added.

[...]

The Swiss have a long history of trying to keep their culture free from the influence of both Muslim and Jewish immigrants.

In 1893, Switzerland banned the practice of shechitah, the kosher way of slaughtering animals, citing cruelty because the animals are not stunned first. Although the government opposed the measure, a group called the Anti-Semite Committee gathered more than 83,000 signatures to bring it to a referendum.

Even now, Jews and Muslims must import their kosher and halal meat from neighboring countries. In recent years, some groups have gone farther, trying to ban even its import. In 2003, for example, the Swiss Animal Protection group began a campaign to ban its import, but failed.
posted by kipmanley at 1:04 PM on December 4, 2009


It's disgusting, and, moreover, in this instance, it has nothing to do with minarets in Switzerland.

Only two contributors to this thread used the word "multicultural" at all, in a debate about multiculturalism no less. Yo-yo was one of them. What I find strange is that some people had no clue about this debate or the internal problems involving multiculturalism, as if they believed there was a dogmatic certainty about the controversy. These were the ignorant ones, despite the feel-good intentions.
posted by Brian B. at 7:49 AM on December 6, 2009


In my experience, "multiculturalism" is much like "political correctness"- words primarily used by people who want to puff themselves up by decrying them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:26 AM on December 6, 2009


"Every Muslim I've ever known (and yes, that includes a pretty decent number, probably in the dozens), I'd consider basically white."

Haaaaahhhaaaahhhhaaaa - wait, this pla guy is trolling, right? he can't be serious.
posted by HopperFan at 12:10 PM on December 6, 2009


Secret Life of Gravy, I don't think you're paranoid, but I do think that some of your sources, particularly the blogger you mentioned, are a bit biased.

After all, the mission statement on the blog says in part "The goal of I♥ Hishma is everything conservative, everything hijab, and just being creative about that, in a world that is trying to reject hijab as being 'not modern enough.'"
posted by HopperFan at 12:19 PM on December 6, 2009


Hey all, I'm in Zurich at the moment. In a shop downtown, I saw this sign. The rough translation is "Love Muslims, so don't leave us alone with the Christians." Just in case anyone might've thought the Swiss were 100% behind the minaret ban.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:49 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Love Muslims, so don't leave us alone with the Christians."

You clearly understand this phrase, but I don't really get it. I couldn't say if it's supposed to be humorous or not, or carry a significance beyond counter-insult. For example, whose point of view would you say it is from? An atheistic one?
posted by Brian B. at 9:13 PM on December 22, 2009


Sorry for the late response. To clarify, the sign is saying "[We] love Muslims, so don't leave us alone with the Christians." For more context, the sign is apparently hanging in a coffeeshop run by Dadaists. What I took away from this was that these people feel far more oppressed by Christians and have had nothing but good experiences with Muslims. A point of view I can well understand, to be frank.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:42 PM on December 28, 2009


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