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Switzerland: Minaret Ban would Breach Religious Freedom

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The Swiss people will be going to the polls on Sunday to vote on a referendum on whether or not to ban Minarets. Amnesty International has stated that if a ban on Minarets passes it will be a breach of religious freedom.

Amnesty International: Ban would breach religious freedom

A ban on the construction of minarets would breach Switzerland’s obligations to uphold freedom of religion, Amnesty International said ahead of a referendum on Sunday 29 November on a constitutional amendment on the issue.

The proposal, which was initiated by members of two Swiss parties, will ask Swiss voters if they wish to add the sentence ‘The construction of minarets is forbidden’ to Article 72 of the Constitution.

The initiators of the referendum claim that the construction of minarets is not protected by the freedom of religion as they have ‘no religious significance’. They assert that minarets are ‘symbols of a religious-political claim to power and dominance which threatens – in the name of alleged freedom of religion – the constitutional rights of others.’

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:
‘The people of Switzerland should reject this proposal outright. This would make a strong statement that they support equality of rights for everyone living in the country.

‘Freedom of religious belief is a basic human right and changing the Swiss constitution to ban the construction of minarets would clearly breach the rights of the country’s muslims.

‘Of course, someone building a mosque should be subject to the same reasonable planning restrictions as anyone else. But these must be applied equally to all. To specifically target minarets while, for example, allowing the construction of church spires would discriminate against muslims on the basis of their religion.’

Islam is the second largest religion in Switzerland after Christianity, and its followers represent over 4 per cent of the country’s population.

There are hundreds of places of worship (mostly in commercial buildings or private residences) in Switzerland but only four minarets have been built.

The Swiss government and all the other major political parties are recommending a ‘no’ vote in the 29 November referendum. Local Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have also joined forces to reject a ban on minarets.

They say that the referendum also poses a threat to peaceful relations between the religions and inhibits the endeavours of Muslims in Switzerland to integrate with the rest of the population.

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  • Muslim

    “I shall refrain from labelling you a short sighted liar, scaremongerer, panderer to unsavoury elements and extremism, fitna monger, as I don’t believe in insulting my own on religious (or even other) matters, and instead ask you to focus on you doing some self searching and opening your mind.”
    — what kind of hypocrisy is this?

    Nabeela you have stooped to the same level I am sorry to say.

    Nabila is wrong, she is giving the wrong message of Islam. I will second the fact that I think she is posing as a muslim!
    Why shouldnt we be allowed to build minarets if we want. Its not about the purpose of a minaret, its more so, the taking away of religious freedoms!
    So what we cant express our culture and build our mosques the way we want?!!
    What has the world come to!
    So Nabeela or whatever your real name is, tell me what is the purpose of a church spiral then?

    As for saudi arabia, atleast it doesnt claim to offer religious freedoms to its citizens unlike switzerland!

    If you don’t like the country don’t go there!

  • Nabeela

    Usman,

    Hi Bro, your post was an emotional outburst full of misunderstandings and you accredited things to me that I did not say. I think you ought to stick to the facts and respond to what I actually did say, rather than what you ASSUMED that I meant to say. In future I shall ignore hysterical baseless nonsense like this from you, but this one time i will go through what you said

    “Nabeela, you are no doubt someone posing as a Muslim, or someone who thinks of themselves as Muslims and feels free to define Islam as they see fit.”
    Can you point to some specific examples of where I did that,

    “‘Islamic’ voices is something only someone ignorant about Muslims would say; just as BNP racists in the UK call us ‘Islamics’ and Santorum says the Qur’an is written in ‘Islamic’. What Muslim would not say ‘Muslim’ voice and realize ‘Islamic voice’ makes no sense, whatsoever?”

    When I write posts, I usually just get my points across, I don’t check to see what the BNP is saying and style my writing accordingly. I couldn’t care less what the BNP racists say. They have no say whatsover in how Muslims should speak. Just because they use certain words doesn’t mean we should not, and pretend that it is unIslamic to do so, as you appear to be doing. This is called pandering. Why are you pandering to these racists? What if someone were to say to you stop eating bread because they do? Or don’t go to whatever city they are in becausse the BNP are there?

    I have come across riduculous examples of this type of pandering. For example, at a debate on the differing dates for Eid (due ot it’s being based on Lunar) someone in all seriousness suggested “We should not celebrate Eid on Saturday (that particular Eid was approved to be on Saturday) because the Wahabi’s are”.

    This is not unlike what you’re trying to do here. Setting up divisions between Muslims based on their own fear and prejudices is what people like this are good at. It’s called Fitna.

    Please show me a ruling by an Al Azhar Sheikh or another who specialises in Islamic Fiqh, that says Muslims should not use the words “Islamic Voices because the BNP and other racists use it” and I am prepared to revise my opinion and thank you for enlightening me. In the meantime, this is what the BNP is up against

    Our leading Muslims: Power list celebrates the top 100 players boosting the nation
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/our-leading-muslims-power-list-celebrates-the-top-100-players-boosting-the-nation-435941.html
    The Muslim community contributes more than £31bn to the economy, and much else besides to our lives. Last night, the business leaders, writers, academics, doctors, campaigners and aid agency founders who do most for Britain were honoured at an awards evening with a difference. Jonathan Thompson reports

    —-
    England may become Muslim state
    http://english.pravda.ru/world/europe/93437-0/
    It is worthy of note that the number of native British citizens converting to Islam has been growing too. Many of them decide to change their religion in the endeavour to improve their financial well-being. The role of Muslim individuals in the British society has been getting more and more important recently. Muslims’ incomes are higher as opposed to those of Christians. There are a lot of Muslim real estate owners in Great Britain. Recent opinion polls conducted among British Muslims aged from 25 to 34 showed that an average Muslim person makes up to 25 pounds sterling ($50,000) a year, which is a bigger number in comparison with an average Briton. Unlike the Arab-Muslim community of France, the Islamic community of Great Britain leaves the native population behind in many aspects, slowly but surely.
    ———

    “What Muslim would support and further – ADVISE – Switzerland ‘ to go ahead and ban’?”
    http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/front.html?siteSect=105&ty=st&ref=fb&sid=11488207

    A reader resident in secular Turkey encouraged the Swiss to accept the initiative because “one sees in Europe countless examples of the disastrous consequences of ceding to incessant Muslim demands”. For him, voting to ban the construction of minarets would help Switzerland “avoid the path of cultural suicide”.

    A more nuanced view from Libya: “Muslim culture is foreign to Europe. Muslims in Europe need to understand that and try to integrate in their respective societies – otherwise Europe is in for a big shock.”
    ————-

    “Why? What is your goal in doing so, and why is it NOT insane to ban an *architectural* design – of all things?”

    I agree but that was not the point, it wasn’t about architecture, and how did you assume that was my goal? Where did I say I support a ban?

    “How can people like you deny that this is not aimed at Muslims as an anti-Muslim measure?”

    I didn’t deny that. I merely recommended looking at the root causes of the paranoia and doing something about it. Education will change that. Pandering to extremists is not the solution. Once the Swiss realise their fear is unfounded, the ban will end. What you don’t seem to understand is that if a community perceives a threat they have right to fight against it. If they are wrong, as they are in this case, why are you not confident that the decision will be rescinded? I don’t’ for a minute doubt that it will be.

    “Laughable when you read the words of the man who came up with idea:“Ulrich Schlüer,”

    Ulrich had a propoganda campaign, and the Swiss Muslims didn’t bother launching a counter programm to educate, because they thought it would not be passed. And did you know that only 53% of the voters turned out? It’s being said that if all had, most probably it wouldn’t have passed.

    The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland also regretted the result, saying the propaganda of the campaign supporters had succeeded in frightening the majority of voters.The federation said it was too soon to judge the negative social and legal consequences – what was important now was to strengthen their public relations and clear up any misunderstandings or prejudices concerning Islam.

    Thus, Ulrich Schluer shouldn’t be the sole voice for you to form an opinion on. Why do you pander to extremists without looking at the big picture?

    “As for Saudi Arabia, Nabeela, your comments there truly expose you as a Muslim-hater, and an vile, purposely ignorant, lying bigot. The most rudimentary of searches will allow you to see Amnesty International criticizes Saudi Arabia routinely. ”

    your childish insults, reveal more about you and the picture is not a pretty one. Yes, you’re right AI does criticise Saudi Arabia, but do you think it does enough? Petro dollars should not stifle debate (as it does amongst politicians) about the intolerant practices that serve to sterotype all Muslims as bigots. That is the reason the EU and USA don’t pressurise Saudi Arabia to let it’s expats practice religion freely, and I won’t go into the employment laws where a lot of them are just slaves as that wasn’t the subject.

    “So, ‘Nabeela, you fraudulent, ignorant, apologist bigot – where is the ground you were trying to stand on, again?”

    I shall refrain from labelling you a short sighted liar, scaremongerer, panderer to unsavoury elements and extremism, fitna monger, as I don’t believe in insulting my own on religious (or even other) matters, and instead ask you to focus on you doing some self searching and opening your mind.

    Ask yourself why you pander to the worst elements in society. Is it because you have doubts? Do you feel insecure and then lash out at those who put your fears in black and white? A disagreement in opinion dones’t mean somebody is not a Muslim. We both know what defines a Muslim and it’s fitna mongering for you to state otherwise. Who are you to do this, when even The Prophet kept quite when asked which of the 72 Islamic sects he predicted Islam would splinter into, would be on the right path? What you know better than The Prophet? I resent your telling us to pander to extremists, and to say it is Unislamic to use words that the BNP use. To hell with them.

    You’re overlooking one thing…Islam is fastest growing religon in the USA and Europe, through conversions. That is the strenght of it’s message, something you seem to have little faith in, judging by your telling Muslims to pander to extremists. No way, Sir. I will not.

    Look at the well concerted effort in the USA against Muslims by the far right. What has it achieved? It made Americans learn about Islam, and learn why Muslims follow the faith. If you read the stories of the converts, they nearly all say that the anti Muslim polemics made them curious about Islam and then discover that they were being lied to, and they converted. The same trend in Europe and Russia.

    Did you stop to think that all this Islamophobia could be a tool?

    (Qur’an, 9:32-33)
    They desire to extinguish God’s Light with their mouths. But God refuses to do other than perfect His Light, even though the unbelievers detest it. It is He Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the True Religion to exalt it over every other religion, even though the idolaters detest it.

  • Usman

    Nabeela, you are no doubt someone posing as a Muslim, or someone who thinks of themselves as Muslims and feels free to define Islam as they see fit.

    ‘Islamic’ voices is something only someone ignorant about Muslims would say; just as BNP racists in the UK call us ‘Islamics’ and Santorum says the Qur’an is written in ‘Islamic’. What Muslim would not say ‘Muslim’ voice and realize ‘Islamic voice’ makes no sense, whatsoever?

    What Muslim would support and further – ADVISE – Switzerland ‘ to go ahead and ban’? Why? What is your goal in doing so, and why is it NOT insane to ban an *architectural* design – of all things?

    The minaret is not a religious necessity, no – but how will the likes of you deny that it is a centuries-old norm of Islamic architecture? How will people like you defend this, and on what basis, protest the same ban on church spires? How can people like you deny that this is not aimed at Muslims as an anti-Muslim measure?

    Laughable when you read the words of the man who came up with idea:

    “Ulrich Schlüer, an SVP parliamentarian who drafted the initiative, told The Times that he had been certain of victory because the Swiss had had enough of the Muslim community. “We are still at the beginning of the process. We compare our situation to Germany, France or England – the problems they have in their suburbs,” he said. “That is what we do not want here.””

    BEGINNING OF THE PROCESS.

    Remember those words, and remember them well.

    As for Saudi Arabia, Nabeela, your comments there truly expose you as a Muslim-hater, and an vile, purposely ignorant, lying bigot. The most rudimentary of searches will allow you to see Amnesty International criticizes Saudi Arabia routinely.

    So, ‘Nabeela, you fraudulent, ignorant, apologist bigot – where is the ground you were trying to stand on, again?

  • Khadija

    The referendum has ended with a 58% acceptance of the ban. The voting day was preceeded by an very unfair campaign portraing muslims as a huge problem in a way that has nothing to to with the life and reality of muslim families here in Switzerland. The Muslims themselves kept a low profile all through this heavy propaganda. Now the discussion has already begun to prohibit the burka – altough there are no Muslim women here who wear one, most being from the Balkans or Turkey. The only women covering their faces here are tourists from the middle east. The party who initiated the referendum on banning minarets wants to further the fight against islam by prohibiting burial grounds and school dispenses. Surely the muslims here feel rejected, no matter what the governement states with view of international effects the vote could have, especially on money from wealthy muslims.
    It is true that minarets are no religious necessity. I personally would prefer Jumma mosques for all believers and the Kutba being translated into a swiss language than many small mosques for the individual ethnic groups. But the voice of the people who accepted the ban is certainly anti-islamic, and that hurts.

  • Nabeela

    Paul and Durendal,

    The minarets are not a religious necessity. If they were they would not have been banned. There have been islamic voices who advised the Swiss to go ahead and ban, and others who were for.

    The government statement was firm in tone: “Today’s popular decision is only directed against the construction of new minarets. It is not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture. Of that the Federal Council gives its assurance.”

  • Durendal

    It seems the Muslim organisations push to not have the ban showed the Swiss that this ban is actually significant and needed.
    It has back lashed on them.
    I personally thought what possible use is such a ban on minarets which have no religious significance?
    Outside of often being a sour thumb in otherwise lovely architecture of European cities?
    Most mosques in Europe are ghastly structures which don’t fit often having to be located in abandoned industrial zones out of sight, just because they are so ugly and out of place.

  • Paul

    Exit polls suggest the measure has been carried. I won’t duplicate my comment

    http://state-ethics.blogspot.com/2009/11/minaret-ban-in-switzerland.html

    on this blog. I will be interested to see how others react to this referendum. It clearly undermines the thesis that there is no fundamental opposition to Islam in western societies. It is very tempting to dismiss the loons which this site watches, but the evidence suggests that their ‘extreme’ views are widespread. Given some political organisation, and a favourable electoral system, they can be a substantial political force.

  • Stefan Klein

    Dieses Gesetzes wird nie verabschieden!

  • marie

    How did this make it to vote?!

  • Nabeela

    Aa

    Well, you don’t seem to have much respect for Islam. It seems that “pissing people of” is more important for you, even if it means distorting the faith.

    Our religion is above “pissing of Islamophobes”. It is not a tool of revenge.

    Are you a Muslim? Or are you pretending to be one and are in reality an Islamophobe yourself? It seems to be the former rather than the latter.

    If you are the former, then quite frankly, that is why we problems, with Muslims like yourself willing to distort the faith to suit your own personal small mindedness.

    Do you think it is worth “pissing of Islamophobes” when it goes against what God wants us to do? treading on the rights of others, to “piss off” others goes against “living by their rules” as the Prophet taught.

    The way to deal with Islamophobes is to show their lies for what they are. Nothing pisses them off more than when their lies are revealed for what they are.

    If you want to “piss off people” please do it without distorting the faith.

  • Aa

    who cares of we use them or not? I say we build as many as we can just to piss the islamophobes off.

  • Nissa

    Nabeela, I agree. The majority should decide. We get the adhan on tv and in the mosque, on the radio too….so I don’t see why Muslims would complain and in reality, they don’t.

  • Nabeela

    Nissa,

    I personally am against the broadcase of Adhan unless it is by majority consensus in a non Muslim country.

    That is why the practice is fine in a Muslim majority country, but it is not right or even religiously sanctioned to do so in a majority non Muslim country where people are not Muslim.

    Would Muslim countries like it other religious groups “forced” us to hear their prayer call whenever they pray? I think not. I wouldn’t welcome that.

    The Prophet taught that when you live in another country you abide by their rules unless you cannot practice your religious obligations.

    There is an alternative to public Adhan, and that is private Adhan at home or wherever.

    Therefore in the case of Adhan, it’s an imposition, unless the majority of people in the City or whereever voted for it.

  • Nissa

    The Swiss mosque would not broadcase the Adhan, they have mentioned that there will be no speakers in the minaret. So no one would have to hear it…also, the Fajr adhan is not broadcasted in non Muslim majority countries! Duh!
    There is no religious cause for e minaret, it was a practical way to broadcast the adhan before the days of microphones! Many mosques don’t have them and are built according to the culture they serve.

  • ah mn

    I remember the Swiss People’s Party spokesman said they do not have anything against the mosques. They opposed only minarets.

  • Al H

    Why do non-Muslims have to be awaken at 5am to hear the call to prayer?

  • James

    What to expect from a country that didn’t give women the right to vote until 1971?

  • Nabeela

    Also, it is not necessary to have a minaret on a Mosque.

    Having said that, it all depends..do Swiss Muslims pay tax that goes towards funding of houses of prayer? If so, then they have the right to insist on a Minaret unless there is a good reason not to.

    But does anyone know what the Sharia ruling on this is? Certainly one of the the Mosques I went to as a kid didn’t have a Minaret.

  • Nabeela

    To be honest, if Amnesty want to complain about this they should complain about the lack of religious freedom for non Muslims in Saudi Arabia.

    Barring Mecca and Medina, there should be houses of prayer for people of other religons. Expats in Saudi and visitors have to worship in secret.

    The Saudi’s say that they don’t levy income tax, but that is irrelevant as not all houses of prayer are built from government funding.

    The Prophet used to allow non Muslims to worship freely, and the Quran certainly gives that right.

    Switzeerland should tell Amnesty International to apply the same principal for the more intolerant Muslim countries who bar public worship in the name of religon. Islam allows freedom of worship.

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