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Published:December 1st, 2009 21:27 EST
Switzerland Bans New Minarets and WSJ Concurs

Switzerland Bans New Minarets and WSJ Concurs

By Geoff Dean

 What is Switzerland to you? To me, it is a land of cheese with holes and excellent chocolates. A land of Alpine views and yodelers and Heidi. A land where bullfights mean bulls fight each other, humanely. A land of peace and neutrality, great airports and famous army knives. And, apparently, a land of bigots.

 Almost 58% of Swiss voters in a referendum joined with the far-right (read neo-Nazi) Swiss People`s Party, the country`s largest political party, and banned construction of minarets. Not church steeples, not manger scenes, not synagogues, not Buddhist pagodas, only minarets. They didn`t ban building mosques, per say, but since a mosque requires a minaret to function properly, it is basically the same thing.

 Posters produced by the SPP in favor of the referendum, automatically called when they were able to gather the required 100,000 signatures, showed minarets redesigned as missiles, suggesting not so subtly  that more minarets equalled more terrorists in Switzerland.

 The faulty logic is obvious. Banning minarets will hardly decrease the number of Muslims in the country. And as we all know, minarets don`t kill people. People kill people. To state the pretty obvious, banning minarets will likely make Swiss Muslims feel persecuted and make them more likely to be vulnerable to radicalization. Is that what the SPP and the signatorees hope?

 The response was swift in condemnation. From the Muslim world. For one example, the Egyptian government called it an"insult." Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, condemned it, albeit less forcefully. It showed "quite a bit of prejudice-and maybe even fear" and it was a "negative signal".

 The Wall Street Journal also weighed in. For the record, while I don`t always agree with the Journal, it tends to have high standards of journalism and even why I agree to diasgree, I find it informative and well thought out. So I was all the more disappointed the article appearing on Nov. 30th.

 The Journal responded to a Swiss politicians claims that the result shows that "the foundations of Swiss direct democracy have failed", with a quick pooh pooh. Not so, says the Journal. The Swiss showed their "mettle in standing up to the political elites." So is that what they did? It was, all in all, says the WSJ, a "mild-mannered sort of protest". (I wonder if the author was a Muslim? Yeah, right.) Mosques have not been banned, the Journal goes on (see above for why this is hogwash) and existing minarets are not affected. In other words, the Swiss didn`t tear down existing minarets and mosques so they should be praised for their restraint? "Nobody`s freedom of worship has been threatened."I don`t want to be overly melodramatic but everyone`s freedom of worship has been threatened, not just Muslims. The Journal sums up that there is "no denying the connection between radical imams and terrorist acts." Maybe, but there is plenty of room for denying the connection of minarets and radical imams.  

 The WSJ and other western publications have condemned moderate Islamic leaders in the past for not condemning terrorism in clear enough terms. This is fair, I think, but now the Swiss has passed blatantly discriminatory rules and much of the West winks, nods, and tries to provide some justification. The French ban head scarves in school, the Swiss ban minarets, and the West insists, we are not against Islam, only extremism. And the Islamic World is supposed to believe that?

 I want my government, the US, to be in the forefront of the condemnation of this attrocious restriction of religious liberty. And, as a Jew, I want the Anti-Defamation League and others to do the same. Wasn`t the banning of new synagogue construction one of the first steps of another group of nazis, not so long ago? Where did it end up? Now, the Swiss Nazis have started their campaign. We would be wise to assume that for them, this is just the beginning.       If we let them get away with this one!