Lindt it or lump it?

Minarets don’t really float my boat, but to ban them? That too in Switzerland by a referendum from the people. 57.5 percent voted in favour. It has been opposed by the Swiss government, parliament, business groups and churches but given the thumbs up by the Right wing Swiss People’s Party.

Here are a few issues raised and it reveals the hollowness that has come to apply to political discourses:

There are only four minarets among the tens of thousands of church spires in Switzerland but the SVP campaigned against them as a symbol of Islamic political influence, which it claimed could eventually undermine the nation's Christian values and democracy.

Since when has Switzerland become a Christian nation? Values cannot be politicised. Minarets do not stand for political influence. Muslims constitute about five percent of the population, and they are mostly from East Europe which can hardly claim to be symbols of Islam.

The spires are traditionally used to make the call for prayers at mosques but Swiss noise control regulations have already stopped them from being used for that purpose; instead, they became an architectural symbol of the Islamic faith. The ban on minarets does not stop the building of mosques, and Muslims were still free to practise their faith.

This is weird. A muezzin could shout from atop a dome as well. And what about church bells? Personally, I am against the call to the faithful at unearthly hours and would rather they invest in alarm clocks, but to use this as a stick to beat a community with is ridiculous.

Embarrassed government spokesmen agreed that the ban would "serve the interests of extremist circles" only, and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey claimed that a yes vote "could make Switzerland a target for Islamic terrorism".

Wow. Even when they are decrying the ban, they are slyly suggesting that this could result in a backlash. Did they want it? Switzerland was not attacked in the two world wars. During the First war, Lenin lived there; it managed to remain unscathed during the WW 11 by playing along with the Germans, although it did not fall into the Nazi trap.

If it has managed to work its way around such major upheavals in history what is the fear now? Mosques have been attacked these past two weeks.

Ulrich Schluer, an SVP politician has been holding forth:

"We compare our situation to Germany, France or England and the problems they have in their suburbs. That is what we do not want here. Mosques are not part of freedom of religion. This is not against Islam. The minaret is a symbol . . . of conquest and power, which marks the will to introduce Shariah law as in other European cities. We will not accept that".

Obviously, someone needs a few lessons in history. How is it not against Islam if it assumes that Shariah law will be introduced? Civil society building mosques is going to now connote conquest?

The problem is that many of these nations will market their goods, send their expertise to Arab countries and bask in the special privileges they get there, but at home they treat immigrants with suspicion.

I have already talked about the breach in the White House security. This was no terrorist attack.

I understand the need for societies to retain their own identity, but what can five per cent of the population do? Are we trying to use examples of a few terrorists? There is no way to justify those acts, but how many people are gunned down in campuses, how many people are murdered, how many fanatics of different stripes – and not just religion – walk around selling their ideologies? What about those versions of ‘shariah’? No one can impose a religious law in a democracy. This bogey is deliberately created to marginalise some groups.

Businesses such as watch-maker Swatch and Switzerland's famous banking industry said they feared the ban could provoke expensive boycotts by Muslims around the world, while the Swiss government warned it could inflame tensions between religions.

Oh, sure. This is what the business lot would be concerned about. Here is news. Muslims, the real rich ones, are the Arabs. They will not boycott anything so long as it is kosher. Trade will continue. If they just kept quiet and went about with their Alps and stopped getting all jittery about something rising up towards the sky, there would be no problems. The rowdies may come out in the streets and make a noise. This seems deliberate.

In the form of direct referendum to get views, they could have asked people about more pressing issues. Why did they choose this? To please the rest of Europe? France, Germany? Perhaps the country should take a good look at itself and watch how the different sections of its own French and German sides are disparate and have an ongoing quiet battle on between them.

I only hope Muslims forget about it as a bad joke and go on with their jobs. They do work too, you know? And the Swiss can be certain that at least one Muslim here has worshipped at the altar of Sprungli. And will continue to do so.


  1. Farzana,
    As I see the most important part here is "That too in Switzerland by a referendum from the people. 57.5 percent voted in favour." .
    The Gorilla in the room here is 57.5 who voted in favour. And, heck, if I understand correctly the referendum cannot even be termed illegal or un-constitutional going by swiss legal framework. Rest all - be it the Swiss government spokesperson or even the SVP politician is secondary. Ignoramus Abound - as one would say.


  2. AS you mentioned history, here are two on Ajan:
    1. Kamal Attaturk had banned Ajans at the time of his dancing hour.
    2. Famous Kabir's doha- :
    kankar pathar jod ke masjid liya banaay
    ta chad mullah baang de kya behra hua khudaay.
    AS an aside the recent uproar in the muslim World on Danish Cartoon has made the west quite apprehensive about influence of Islam and its symbol .

  3. Despite the penetration of Internet access, people still dont want to see many facts;
    Egypt with 90% muslim population,you can buy teh best of french wines, listen to Live music , right next to a Minarette..they are open for lunch on Friday Afternoons though but friday night is busiest ..same as Zurich...
    How many sheikhs (whatever is left of their money) invest in investment banks which further invest in wineries, beer companies, casinos and even brothels (in many countries brothels are stock exchange listed "recreation" companies)...their money is invested there ....
    There are only two religions in the world...Haves and Have nots ....and The Have's have a battle with egos ....while the have nots are fighting with symbolism (mandir, masjid, friday off and Vande Matram types)
    In absence of democracy and media and university degrees, fareed and Bulle Shah saw the madness within the organised world of religion ....unfortunately, Fareed and Bulleshah had no cult to follow them .

  4. Mahesh:

    Yes, it is the people. But why were they asked? Isn’t that the bogey created by the powers? There appears to be no hands off policy anymore. And as I said, this society does not even have what may be described as immigrants from ‘rabid Islamic’ countries.


    Azaan (not Ajan, if you don’t mind) has been expected to be played down in several countries. So, what’s the point? Why so keen on Ataturk’s dancing hour? The azaan is repeated five times and twinkle toes cannot go on that many. Ask the gopis.

    You want Kabir?

    Pothi Padh Padh Kar Jag Mua, Pandit Bhayo Na Koye
    Dhai Aakhar Prem Ke, Jo Padhe so Pandit Hoye

    (Reading books where everyone dies, none became anymore wise
    One who reads the word of Love, only becomes wise)

    Interesting that you mention the uproar over the Danish cartoons and not the cartoons themselves. We need to be concerned about those Danes, too, and their warped sense of humour.


    Thanks for the points and pointers about wines. You are right. No one wants to see this. And I forgot Swiss banks.

    There are only two religions in the world...Haves and Have nots ....and The Have's have a battle with egos ....while the have nots are fighting with symbolism (mandir, masjid, friday off and Vande Matram types)

    I don’t agree entirely with this. The Haves too fight with these symbols in a more sophisticated manner. See how the VIPs get entry into Ajmer dargah and Tirupati temple. It is these folks who go out on rallies wearing black bands and making the attempt to walk with the unwashed, untutored. They are more dangerous because they come along with their egos.

  5. Ms FV
    Thanks for correcting spellings- urdu is not my language
    Ataturq was mentioned in relation to Azaan as being a muslim and head of a muslim country , azaan was less important to him than his dancing hour and as your article relates to recent referendum in Switzerland on minarets in a mosque, the purpose of which is to call the faithful for prayer .
    Again, the Kabir's doha relates to the Azzan and so supposedly the minaret- a place for Azzan.
    I don't see the point of including another doha of Kabir as literally you can have all of Kabir's dohas on some aspect of life.
    About the danish cartoons, it amount to the freedom of expression- same you exercise in your blog.
    PS: Always enjoy the songs you include time to time and the correction of spelling is apprciated.

  6. May be the muslims in Switzerland could buy a church with towers for sale?

  7. A quote from someone i dont know: "Those who are intolerant themselves, can't expect unlimited tolerance from others"


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