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Published:December 3rd, 2009 10:49 EST
The Swiss People's' Party and Islamic Immigration

The Swiss People's' Party and Islamic Immigration

By Geoff Dean

 You have to credit them with mastering imagery. But subtlety is not a strong suit.

 The Swiss People`s` deployed posters, splashed all over the Alpine countryside, in support of the recent ban on minaret construction. On these posters, the minarets that surround mosques were transformed into missiles. Prayer towers painted as weapons of mass destruction. Or more likely. posters as weapons of mass hate crimes.

 This was not the first or most infamous advertising campaign by the SVP, which is how the party name is abbreviated in German. There was a poster showing three white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag, with the caption, "Create Security". Responding to charges of blatant racism, one SVP candidate, Bruno Walliser said that racist "myth" was created by "our enemies". The message is simple, he goes on to explain, as "the black sheep is...the foreign criminal who doesn`t belong here...We don`t want him."

 Another poster featured Osama Bin Laden with a Swiss passport in hand, taking a shot at "lax" Swiss immgration laws (actually, according to the New York Times, October 8th, 2007, the Swiss have some of the toughest immigration laws in Europe, requiring 12 years residence before consideration of an immigration application).

 A promotional video produced by the SVP and titled, with typical subtlety, "Heaven or Hell", showed two possible futures of Switzerland. One featured hard working Swiss at various multinational companies; the other showed Muslim women in head scarves and Muslim men sitting around idly. The message was brutally clear; don`t let Muslims turn Switzerland into a hell. This despite the fact that Muslims account for 5% of the total population, are mostly Balkan refugees, only 15% of whom actually practice their religion, and have no history of radical behavior or terrorism. Indeed, Swiss Muslim leaders have often urged their Middle Eastern counterparts to show more restraint.

 The SVP has also pushed for a "kin liability law" whereby the family of an immigrant criminal can be summarily deported for the crime of one member, including visa overstays and the like. In an extreme case, a hard working Swiss immigrant of twenty years or more could be deported because of a traffic violation by a nephew. This policy was called "Sippenhaft" and used by Nazi Germany as one method to deal with "undesirables" like foreigners and immigrants.

 The SVP members` "worship" of party leader, Cristoph Blocher, has been compared to fascist personality cults like that of Mussolini in Italy, by the Swiss Justice Minister and Interior Minister, two ministries especially concerned about the rise of neo-Nazi and fascist behavior in Switzerland.

 Despite the blatant racism or perhaps because of it, the SVP has become the top vote getter in the last two Swiss elections and a powerhouse as the "minaret" vote showed so painfully clearly. That`s what I find disturbing. Every country has extremist and skinheads and white supremacists and the like. But in Switzerland, their views seem to be altogether too mainstream.

 A while back in another contribution, I took a look and a laugh at Libyan leader Gaddafi`s call, at the UN, no less, for the "abolition" of Switzerland. He called for the country to be divided up and parcelled out on linguistic lines to France, Italy, and Germany. I laughed off his craziness as just the latest in a long line of outrageous lines from the Colonel. But now I`m not so sure. If he needs a supporter for his "abolish Switzerland" campaign, I`ll give it some thought. I`d miss the cheese and the instant cocoa but not the SVP and the racist mentality that lets it flourish.