January 31st, 2010 16:36 EST
Response to Geoff Dean's 5 articles on Switzerland and the minarets
I read the five articles Geoff Dean has devoted to the Swiss ban on minarets.
Those articles are:
Jewish Lobbying Groups on Swiss Minaret Ban
Swiss Nazis and the lessons of "Hitlerism"
Swiss Companies Respond to Potential Boycott
The Swiss People`s` Party and Islamic Immigration
Switzerland Bans New Minarets and WSJ Concurs
There are very disturbing statements in those articles that I feel I
have to correct.
As a Swiss and a Jew, I feel that it is my duty to respond. I am not a
journalist or a Swiss politician. I am just a private citizen.
The vote to ban minarets did not happen in isolation but is the result
of an unfortunate succession of events that started in a small town.
When a far right Turkish extremist group (the gray wolves) wanted to
open an Islamic cultural center in a town called Wangen. The Islamic
group made no effort to integrate. The Islamic center quickly became a
mosque (in total illegality) and then shortly after a request was made
to build a minaret. The local authorities denied the construction of
the minaret so the Islamic center sued the village officials in a
state court and won. It eventually went to the Swiss supreme court
that rejected the case. As soon as it happened, a minaret was erected.
This incident very much upset the local population which was
completely bypassed and their only recourse was a national referendum.
It is only at this point that the SVP jumped in.
Clearly the vote is not a referendum against minarets. It is a proxy
vote. 22% of the population in Switzerland is foreign (this is much
higher than in the US) so the Swiss overall are very open to
foreigners, very involved in humanitarian missions throughout the
world, and accept many refugees. The Swiss however are tired of the
passivity of their authorities regarding illegal immigration, upset
that the country is becoming less and less safe. They are tired of
having to accept all kinds of demands from immigrants (like segregated
swimming pools). Tired of immigrants not wanting to integrate and
refusing to learn the local languages. Tired of being ignored by their
own government. Tired of being taken for a ride daily by Kadhafi, the
Libyan leader, who took 2 Swiss businessmen hostage a year ago and
ridiculed Swiss president Merz last year..
The Swiss don`t want ghettos like they exist in France and Germany.
They do demand for immigrants to properly integrate the community.
Combine this with a few very visible cases such as the Imam of Sion
beating up his kids, the Imam of Fribourg calling for jihad, several
cases of female excisions, many cases of spousal abuse, and finally
the Swiss government thinking about allowing the Sharia law in some
So when they went to the booth the Swiss voters showed their
displeasure for many different reasons and unfortunately it is very
ugly. Clearly a subject like this one should not have been the subject
of a national referendum but the Swiss government and the parliament
were so sure the initiative would be defeated that they let it happen
(somehow naively thinking it would show the world how tolerant the
Now, I do need to point out the errors made in those articles:
GD: 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."
The referendum is not the product of the SVP party but of a grassroot
movement that started in Wangen. Yes they later on were backed by a
wing of the SVP but not initially.
GD: "But since a mosque requires a minaret to function properly, it
is basically the same thing."
Absolutely not. Check throughout the world. Many mosques have no
minaret. Even historical mosques in the middle east do not have
minarets. It has never been a requirement. The famous Al Aqsa mosque
on the temple mount in Jerusalem has no minaret.
GD: "I don`t want to be overly melodramatic but everyone`s freedom of
worship has been threatened, not just Muslims. "
In what way? Minarets are only decorative in Europe. Public
loudspeakers are not allowed anywhere in Europe or the US.
GD: "attrocious (sic) restriction of religious liberty."
let`s not get carried away. There are 160 functioning mosques in
Switzerland. They are free to hire any Imams that are then granted
visas. The right to worship is guaranteed by the constitution.
GD: "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
It is 8 years now. It requires to demonstrate proper integration in
the community and learning one of the 4 national languages. All of it
is sensible. Switzerland has never claimed to be a melting pot.
Naturalization is welcome if sincere.
GD: "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."
Christoph Blocher was kicked out of the government because we are a
democracy. Blocher is not Mussolini.
You can compare him to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck if you want. And
by the way, Do you know that Christoph Blocher was personally opposed
to the minaret initiative and never supported it throughout the
The SVP party was divided over the anti minaret initiative and the
anti minaret posters were not officially endorsed.
GD: "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."
While I have no sympathy for the SVP, the SVP is not a neo-Nazi party.
It is a large conservative party like the republican party in the US.
It historically was the conservative farmers` party. There are many
tendencies within it. The Bern branch is very moderate. Yes, some of
them do adopt a discourse like Lou Dobbs and it also attracts some
fringe voters like everywhere else. The Swiss are notorious for not
following party line.
GD: "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."
Kadhafi said that because Switzerland arrested his son after he and
his wife tortured his personal maids in a Geneva hotel. Kudos to the
Swiss. Maybe in your country Mr.Dean, The incident would have been
swept under the rug and the son and his wife discreetly asked to
GD: "Similarly, the minaret ban, while the brainchild of the SVP party"
No, it is not. See above.
GD: "Where are the voices crying out for this decision to be overturned?"
Many voices. Just read the Swiss press. Consult Le Temps in Geneva or
the NZZ in Zurich for solid and trustworthy information. You will see
that many associations, attorneys, scholars etc... are demanding for
the vote to be cancelled.
GD: "Jews were initially allowed to maintain some synagogues and
businesses continue work in some professions, continue sending Jewish
kids to public schools, and so on. As the public became accustomed to
restrictions on the Jews, new ones were introduced gradually. When
some complained, for instance, that World War I veteran German Jews
were being persecuted despite fighting for Germany, they were excluded
from many of the harshest restrictions. For a time."
The parallel between the situation of the Jews in 1930s Germany and
the Muslims in Switzerland is obscene. Please let`s not go there.
Switzerland was extremely generous in offering asylum to many Muslim
and non Muslim refugees from the Balkans in the 90s. Much more
generous than the US. It was actually so generous that none of them
want to go back to the Balkans now that the war is over.
Also, the Jewish community is extremely well integrated. Let`s not
forget that Switzerland had a Jewish socialist woman as president,
Ruth Dreifuss, in 1999.
This year, the president is Doris Leuthard, a 46 year old woman. She
is a very sharp and approachable person and is by no mean an
GD: 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."
This poster was shameful and it backfired on the SVP and Christoph
Blocher. This has never been submitted for a referendum because it is
There is a problem with crime done by foreigners in Switzerland.
70-80% of the people in prisons are foreign. Switzerland being a rich
country attracted a large portion of criminals from eastern Europe
after the fall of the wall. The politicians and the Swiss population
are very divided on how to deal with the problem which again is real.
What is happening in Italy right now is much more troubling. There is
ethnic cleansing going on in the south of Italy and it is much more
ugly and alarming than this ridiculous minaret thing that sooner or
later will be dismissed or overturned. Switzerland is a constitutional
democracy with 700 years of democratic tradition and we are proud of
it. Attorneys and constitutional experts are looking into invalidating
the minaret ban. Just be patient.
A boycott would have the exact opposite effect. Believe me Switzerland
is not the new 3rd Reich. Please look elsewhere. You are defining
Switzerland just like if I was defining the US by the atrocities done
at Abu Ghraib or the invasion of Iraq that was supported by a
comfortable majority of Americans at the time.
Also remember that Switzerland is the only country in Europe where us
Jews were able to practice our religion throughout the 20th century
So please, come spend a week here and inform yourself. Talk to
journalists, politicians, and people in the street.