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