The Swiss Referendum: We want no more minarets! What the hell!!!

 

I was hoping not to write this article, but then again today’s Swiss Referendum just upset my stomach. Exactly a month ago I went to Switzerland for 5 days and decided with my old room-mate, Javier, to cycle around the country. So we did. One thing struck me though. In all major cities, train-stations, bus-stops and on a large number of publicity boards one image kept reappearing. It was the image of a Muslim woman with a Minaret in the background. It was in German, but I could understand it saying “STOP”. I asked my friend, who is pursuing sociology as a career, to enlighten me on the matter. “Yes, I know. It is really strange. The biggest Swiss political party, the SPP (Swiss People’s Party) is campaigning against the building of minarets”. I looked at my friend quite shocked. “Are you kidding me? No, this is just a joke, right?” – “No, my friend. It is anything but a joke. This is happening in tolerant, neutral Switzerland”. – answered Javier.

Before I start getting into the substance, let’s define the term. A Minaret is a column-like structure attached to mosques, which is used to call the believers to pray five times a day. Put it simply, it is a tower from which Muslims are called to pray.

Reading today’s news I came across what I did not expect to happen in “tolerant, neutral” Switzerland. On this day, 29th of November, the Swiss voted against building minarets in their country!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let us not forget that this is a country which is renowned for its neutrality, tolerance, direct democracy, people’s rights. It is not a member of the EU; it had denied becoming a member of the EEA; it is not a NATO member; it is one of the last states to join the UN. And in this so called “people’s heaven” this is what the majority of 59% voted for today: A ban to build minarets in the country.

Let us not forget that Switzerland is a member of the Council of Europe, it endorsed the European Convention on Human Rights which in article 9 provides for the freedom of thought, conscience and religion of everyone. It can only be subject to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. (ECHR, art.9 para.2). Where the hell is there a need to protect public order, health or morals in such a situation! Nowhere.

Furthermore art.15 and 36 of the Swiss Federal Constitution provide the following:

Art. 15 Freedom of religion and conscience

1 Freedom of religion and conscience is guaranteed.

2 Everyone has the right to choose freely their religion or their philosophical convictions, and to profess them alone or in community with others.

3 Everyone has the right to join or to belong to a religious community, and to follow religious teachings.

4 No one shall be forced to join or belong to a religious community, to participate in a religious act, or to follow religious teachings.

Art. 36 Restrictions on fundamental rights

1 Restrictions on fundamental rights must have a legal basis. Significant restrictions must have their basis in a federal act. The foregoing does not apply in cases of serious and immediate danger where no other course of action is possible.

2 Restrictions on fundamental rights must be justified in the public interest or for the protection of the fundamental rights of others.

3 Any restrictions on fundamental rights must be proportionate.

4 The essence of fundamental rights is sacrosanct.

What did the Swiss referendum do today? Basically it violated the country’s Constitution, the ECHR and just basic common sense. Reading today’s papers I came across the following numbers. Out of 7,7 million people, only 6 % percent are of Muslim decent (majority from the former Yugoslavia) and out of these people only 13% practice the religion! You know how much that is? 60 thousand people. And in the whole country only 4 minarets had been built up to this moment. Yes, you read it well. 60 thousand people practice Islam in Switzerland. There are more people who believe that ET created the world and Harry Potter is real. What the hell did the Swiss people do today? And yes, I say the Swiss people because they have a system of semi-direct democracy,  so what the people vote for is pretty much law. You don’t need any further endorsement by the Legislative Power. (art.138-142, especially art.142 para.1 of the Swiss Constitution)

Looking at the numbers, the fact that only 4 minarets were ever built, the fact that such a minaret is smaller then a telephone pole (if you were expecting to see the Taj Mahal or the Great Mosque with its minarets from Istanbul you are wrong!) I ask myself, basing my conclusion on art.36 of the Swiss Constitution. What kind of public interest would justify such a thing? How is this act proportionate in anyway? And yes, fundamental rights are sacrosanct! Well it looks like 59% of the Swiss thought it otherwise.

I am deeply disappointed by this outcome. I thought that the actions of the Dutch monkey, Geert Wilders, were exaggerated. It reminds me of the old mayor of Cluj-Napoce (Kolozsvar, Klausenburg) that plagued the city for 12 years. A person who poisoned the two communities of the city and unfortunately this is what the Swiss SPP and the people who voted for it are going to do.

 

Bibliography and further reading

–         Swiss Federal Constitution – English version – http://www.admin.ch/ch/e/rs/1/101.en.pdf

–         European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

–         The Guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/29/swiss-minarets-ban-referendum

–         The New York Times – http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2009/11/29/world/news-us-swiss-minarets.html?_r=1&hp

–         www.wikipedia.com

2 responses to “The Swiss Referendum: We want no more minarets! What the hell!!!

  1. 2 things:

    I doubt this is against the constitution, cause it doesn’t restrict the 3 principles that u mentioned: no one is forcing anyone to change religion or how to practice it. It is the same as having religious items in the public school system.
    PLUS, if nothing works, u can always blame the noise from the minarets and have it fixed without a referendum.
    BUT it is retarded, since no one is banning the building of new churches or wtv.

    The second thing: its probably different to judge when ur not there. Patriot Act looks weird now and so does its magnitude, but 8 years ago it looked perfectly fine.
    Its easy to preach about the cold war when in Harvard, and its easy to pity Africa without doing shit while u have drinking water lol.
    After being fed different ideologies and living it for your own, u kinda have a change of heart.

    Watch the movie Crush: u’ll notice the change after uve watched half the movie – between people who judge and are being charged for it, and people who dont judge but start too:) It might be the same situation as with the swiss.

    Cheers Dude.

    • I was there for a couple of days and the magnitude of the campaign shocked me….it was in each city, each public space and I really looked at it as a threat to a community. Check the picture I took and uploaded. You can clearly sea that it is not just the Minarets but a Muslim Woman as well, so it tells you quite clearly that none of the two are appreciated….

      I talked with young people (especially my hosts) who were more open minded but told me that the middle aged class generally was against it.

      I think the fact that you ban religious objects in public institutions is completely different. Yes you are not allowed to put a cross or depiction of saints or whatever. But this is part of their mosque, just as a bell tower is part of a Christian Church…Let’s ban all bell towers from now on.

      Secondly about the justifications for restrictions. Look at how art.15 para.2 is envisaged. It says “Everyone has the right to choose freely their religion or their philosophical convictions, and to profess them alone or in community with others.” So it says clearly to “profess” and I do think a religious building/edifice is part of the way you profess your religion.

      And then read this with art.36 and it is clear that it is a restriction on the “profession of a religion” as well. Let’s say religion X needs shiny balloons to profess their religion? Restricting shiny balloons will mean that you are restricting his freedom to profess a religion.

      I am struck by the outcome, because it is Switzerland, a country that generally is used as an example; it does discriminate against one specific community (why didn’t they ban Buddhist shrines, saying that the candles pollute the ozone layer)and the no. of minarets and people who profess is just too low. Where is their any public justification????

      Plus they fucked up big time with the arrest of Al Gaddafi’s son as well…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s