Switzerland Draws the Line with Minaret Ban
by MELANIE PHILLIPS
December 8, 2009
Well, who would have thought the Swiss had it in them? The country that until now was known for nothing more exciting than banking, cheese and cuckoo clocks has secured its place in history by becoming the first in Europe to say to Islam: “thus far and no further.”
In a decision so controversial within Switzerland that it may be overturned, 57.5 percent voted in a referendum backed by the ultra-conservative Swiss People's Party to ban the construction of any new minarets on mosques.
Along with much of Europe, the reaction within Britain, where the government is pursuing a policy of engagement rather than confrontation to deal with its major problem of Islamic extremism, has been widespread horror.
After all, there are only four minarets in Switzerland, where the 5 percent of the population who are Muslims are mainly liberally-minded Bosnians, Kosovo Albanians and Turks and who keep a low profile.
The ban is said to be illiberal, discriminatory and infringing the rights of Muslims to religious worship. Nevertheless, opinion is not speaking with one voice. In Britain as in Switzerland, feminists and some liberals have backed the ban because they are deeply anxious the encroachment of Islam within Europe will destroy women's rights.
And France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel have both acknowledged that the Swiss vote reflects growing fears within Europe that the continent is being steadily Islamized.
This fissure in European opinion suggests the issue is rather more complex than the superficial consternation might suggest. The stock liberal view is that the state has no business telling a religious community how to construct its houses of prayer. And in general this is absolutely right.
But liberal societies also hold that minorities must not threaten or coerce the majority culture. If that precept is followed, then just like any other minority, Muslims should certainly be welcome to practice their faith. And many do so in just such a way.
The problem is that while many such Muslims sign up to democracy, human rights and the separation of religion and state, the Islamists who dominate the Muslim world are pushing the agenda of Islamizing the West. And the minaret is a symbol of that religious aggression.
The suggestion that banning minarets attacks Muslim rights to religious observance could not be farther from the truth. For the minaret has no religious significance in Islam.
To Western eyes, it may seem nothing other than an architectural feature. But historically it has served as a symbol of Islamic political power and aspiration.
It is designed to help impose Islam on the surrounding society. As a powerful symbol of Islamic dominance, it is often constructed to be higher than other religious buildings specifically to send the message both to Muslims and those of other faiths and none that Islam is supreme.
That is why Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan described minarets as the “bayonets of the faith.” They are political instruments of religious domination. And that is what the Swiss have understood as a threat to their society.
For liberals, any issue taken up by a party they brand the 'far Right' is automatically made toxic by such association. But it is the issue that matters, not who is taking sides over it.
The West is so bamboozled by multiculturalism, the doctrine that all cultures must be held to have equal value and any differentiation is prejudice, that it cannot see the destructive absurdity of this fuss.
For while it is having a fit of the vapors over the so-called threat to religious freedom represented by the minaret ban, it is silent over the fact that in Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia there is no freedom of worship, no churches are allowed to be built at all and apostates from Islam are punished by death.
Islamism is encroaching in Europe and the West because liberals are so paralyzed by their own nostrums they cannot defend their own culture – a vulnerability the Islamists are exploiting to the hilt. The Western response to the ban is characterized by fear of the Muslim reaction to it – thus demonstrating to the Islamists once again that terror and intimidation work.
Islamists themselves have given the game away. Both Tariq Ramadan and the Muslim Council of Britain have said that mosques and minarets in European cities “are manifestations of the proudly indigenous nature of Islam in Europe.”
But Islam is not indigenous in Europe. The last attempt by the Islamic world to conquer Europe was repulsed at the gates of Vienna in 1683.
It is possible that the Swiss vote will now give courage to other European countries to stop the march of political Islam - and that future generations will talk of the jihad being repulsed at the gates of Geneva. But then again, Europe's own death-wish may be just too strong.
Contributor Melanie Phillips is the author of the powerful and frightening "Londonistan" which can be purchased here, and she blogs at The Spectator.