Friday, April 30, 2010

MINARETS in Switzerland: Ban STILL "Completely Incomprehensible"

What could be prettier together in the skyline?(Photo: Steeple and minaret in Wangen bei Olten, 7 August 2009/Michael Buholzer)

As of the date of the 2009 vote, there were four minarets in Switzerland, attached to mosques in Zürich, Geneva, Winterthur and Wangen bei Olten. These existing minarets are not affected by the ban.

Dick Marty: " reawaken the ghost of a religious war is irresponsible". (From an interview in SwissInfo - see more of the interview just below)

At end of post is 1) a "surprise" and 2) an abstract of collegiate article on the topic just published end of April 2010 Photo credit goes to BBC - See a 2005 profile of Dick Marty here

“Something is culturally wrong in Switzerland” Dick Marty continued in the interview with - Switzerland’s image as a country of human rights has been rocked by the ban on the construction of minarets, according to this Swiss member of the Council of Europe.

"Minaret Controversy in Switzerland" (See Wikipedia article by same title) refers to construction of minarets, which has been subject to legal and political controversy in Switzerland during the 2000s.

In a November 2009 referendum, a constitutional amendment banning the construction of new minarets was approved by 57.5% of the participating voters.[1] Only four of the 26 Swiss cantons,[2] mostly in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, opposed the initiative. (See other Wikipedia excerpts below)

Interview with Dick Marty with Swiss Info dot ch. Dec 9, 2009 December 10 is Human Rights Day. What is your personal wish regarding human rights?

Dick Marty: That society in general becomes more aware of how important human rights are and that it requires a daily struggle to maintain these rights. You are known in the Council of Europe as a champion of human rights. How do they react in Strasbourg to the minaret ban?

D.M.: This ban is completely incomprehensible. I find it simply grotesque, because looked at unemotionally we’ve voted on a “non-problem”: in Switzerland we’re inundated by neither minarets nor applications to build them. Most Swiss had no idea that for a long time we’ve had four minarets and more than 200 places of Muslim culture or prayer.

More from "Minaret Controversy in Switzerland" (Wikipedia sourced article by same name originally posted before the ban won referendum vote late 2009):

...centre politicians mainly from the Swiss People's Party and the Federal Democratic Union, the Egerkinger Kommittee ("Egerkingen Committee") launched a federal popular initiative that sought a constitutional ban on minarets. The Swiss government recommended that the proposed amendment be rejected as inconsistent with basic principles of the constitution...

Non-governmental organisations

The Society for Minorities in Switzerland calls for freedom and equality. It started an internet-based campaign in order to gather as many symbolic signatures as possible against a possible minaret ban.[22] Amnesty International warned the minaret ban aims to exploit fears of Muslims and encourage xenophobia for political gains. "This initiative claims to be a defense against rampant Islamification of Switzerland," Daniel Bolomey, the head of Amnesty’s Swiss office, said in a statement cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP). "But it seeks to discredit Muslims and defames them, pure and simple."[23] Economiesuisse finds an absolute construction ban would hit Swiss foreign interests negatively. It points to the fact that only the launch of the initiative caused turmoil in the Islamic world.[citation needed] The Swiss-based "Unser Recht" association publishes a number of articles against a minaret ban.[24] In autumn 2009, the Swiss Journal of Religious Freedom launched a public campaign for religious harmony, security, and justice in Switzerland. It distributed several thousand stickers in the streets of Zürich for the right to religious freedom.[25].

Religious organisations

Catholic bishops oppose a minaret ban. A statement from the Swiss Bishops Conference said that a ban would hinder inter-religious dialogue and added that the construction and operation of minarets were already regulated by Swiss building codes. The statement requested that "the initiative to be rejected is based on our Christian values and the democratic principles in our country."[26] The official journal of the Catholic Church in Switzerland publishes a series of articles on the minaret controversy.[27] The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches holds that the popular initiative is not about minarets, but is rather an expression of the initiators’ concern and fear of Islam. It views a minaret ban as a wrong approach to overcome such objections.[28] The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities are also against any ban on building minarets. Says Dr Herbert Winter, the president of the Federation: “As Jews we have our own experience. For centuries we were excluded: we were not allowed to construct synagogues or cupola roofs. We do not want that kind of exclusion repeated.” [29]. Many other religious organisations find the idea of a complete minaret ban as lamentable.[30] These are: the Association of Evangelical Free Churches and Communities in Switzerland; the Swiss Evangelical Alliance; the Old Catholic Church in Switzerland; the Covenant of Swiss Baptists; the Salvation Army; the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Switzerland; the Orthodox Diocese the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople; the Serbian Orthodox Church in Switzerland; and the Anglican Church in Switzerland.[30].

Interview with Dick Marty Continued:

D.M.: The ban touches on the freedom of religion and religious peace. In the past our country suffered terribly from religious wars, and for me waking this ghost is irresponsible and dangerous. In the [financial] crisis there’s a risk that people’s frustrations get channeled here.

It’s not easy explaining the minaret result abroad. I always try to show that the Libyan affair played a big role [two Swiss businessmen have been held hostage in Libya since July 2008 following the Geneva arrest of the son of Moammar Gaddafi, despite an apology from Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz].

And I promise that we’re doing everything possible to restore Switzerland’s credibility. We need to change the way we discuss politics. The parties to the left and in the centre need to sit down and work out how to stop this “politics of emotion” and return to the real issues. A popular vote is in the pipeline that will decide on whether people without Swiss passports who commit a crime will be automatically deported. Where does this trend for such initiatives come from?

D.M.: Following [November 2008's] initiative to extend indefinitely the statute of limitations for paedophile crimes, the minaret initiative is already the third people’s initiative to violate basic rights and the human rights convention. Looked at objectively all three are stupid.

Because the politicians are not in the position to solve the right problems, they increasingly play with emotions. For me the most dramatic problem at the moment is youth unemployment. Civilised societies should give young people a right to work. We should vote on that.

I’m pinning the blame not just on the Swiss People’s Party [the rightwing party that backed the minaret initiative] – the other parties are just as responsible because they aided and abetted this game. They didn’t get very involved in the minaret campaign – nor did the government. The whole thing was underestimated – although the danger was clear. Instead they were more occupied with the ban of war exports [which was rejected]. The debate has resurfaced on whether people should be able to vote on fundamental human rights. Are tighter laws necessary?

D.M.: Actually no – we just need a government that has the knowledge and courage to apply the fundamentals of our constitution.

I maintain however that the government is not in the position to do that, and I therefore wonder whether we don’t need a constitutional court, like virtually all democracies in the world. This would provide control and balance between the various state powers. It would also prevent decisions being taken according to the emotion of the moment.

The situation is even more blatant with the deportation initiative than with the minarets. It is clearly going to violate non-refoulement, a fundamental principle of international and humanitarian law [that concerns the protection of refugees from being returned to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened]. That the government cannot see this, I find absolutely scandalous. The presidency of the Council of Europe is currently held by Switzerland, which has traditionally pushed for human rights. Is Switzerland still credible, following the minaret vote?

D.M.: Yes, but our task has been made considerably harder. We are credible because this decision was actually taken by the people.

Nevertheless I believe our position has been weakened. Above all we’ve lost this image of democracy. In this respect the vote on November 29 has been a disaster.

The dramatic thing is that there have only been losers: Muslims, the Swiss abroad, the economy.

The yes to the minaret ban is a sign that something is emotionally and culturally wrong in Switzerland. It is the sign of a society that has become weak. A weak society always needs an enemy to hate. The Muslims have now filled that role – it’s as if everything bad is the fault of the Muslims.

People forget that in the past 100 years the worst massacres, such as the Second World War or Srebrenica, were carried out by Christians. What will happen if the minaret ban goes to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and is rejected?

D.M.: There are three possibilities: we don’t implement the ban, we vote again, or we have to leave the Council of Europe.

If we want to behave like an honest signatory – and that was always Switzerland’s policy – we have to say that in this case we are not in a position to implement the human rights convention properly.

You can’t pick and choose basic rights. They are non-negotiable.

END interview with Dick Marty (Above interview translated from German by Thomas Stephens) MUCH earlier and Related Stories (Find all these - if still archived - at

# ^ NZZ 26 February 2010; Yahoo News, 25 February 2010; Colonel Gaddafi calls for jihad against Switzerland World condemns Gaddafi's call for jihad against Switzerland The Daily Telegraph, 25 February 2010.
# ^
# ^ Turkey calls on Muslims to withdraw money from Swiss banks
# ^
# ^,7340,L-3815375,00.html
# ^ UN council targets Swiss anti-minaret vote

SEE Wikipedia, and for more references

Of FURTHER Interest:

Swiss initiator of opposing Masjid (Islamic) Minarets - accepts Islam
He drove fiercely for imposition of ban on mosques minarets, and wanted to lock the mosques in Switzerland. ... However, from within their own ranks, a man is now working for the promotion of Islam and its teachings. The law of a country can ban minarets but not minds and hearts. Find this article here


Panacea or Pathetic Fallacy? The Swiss Ban on Minarets
By Lorenz Langer - Yale Law School

Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 43, 2010

On November 29, 2009, Swiss voters adopted a ballot initiative introducing a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets. The supporters of the initiative had argued that minarets were not a religious symbol, but a token of power and conquest: banning them would halt the creeping Islamisation of Switzerland. The ban’s opponents had warned that the ballot initiative violated national and international provisions on non-discrimination and the free exercise of religion.

This article provides a thick description of the context in which the minaret vote took place. First, a legal analysis addresses the implications of the ban under national, regional and international normative frameworks. It is argued that the ban is irreconcilable with the constitutional bill of rights and several international human right provisions. However, in contrast to state ballots in the United States, there is no judicial review of initiatives in Switzerland; respect for the vox populi trumps any concern over conflicting international obligations. A historical analysis will help to explain how, through its excessive emphasis on popular sovereignty, the peculiar myth-system underlying modern-time Switzerland has facilitated the banning of minarets.

Mosques and minarets, however, also cause controversies elsewhere. The fears that fueled the prohibition of minarets in Switzerland are widespread in Europe. I set out how hostility to Islam is partly rooted in historical traditions, partly due to disagreement over how to integrate newcomers into Western society, and I suggest an approach that carefully balances expectations of Muslim adaption with a less exclusive construction of European identity.

Date posted: April 24, 2010 ; Last revised: April 27, 2010

Langer, Lorenz, Panacea or Pathetic Fallacy? The Swiss Ban on Minarets (April 24, 2010). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 43, 2010 . Available at SSRN:

Contact Information
Lorenz Langer (Contact Author)
Yale Law School ( email )
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

No comments:

Post a Comment