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November 30, 2009

Minaret Ban Reaction: Swiss "Justice" Minister...The People Can Not Be Trusted

Laura blogged about this yesterday (and I share her mixed reaction to the news). Now the fallout is beginning.

So concerned is the government by the decision that Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer Schlumpf, watching the results come in on Sunday afternoon, apparently told her advisers there ought to be some restrictions on what the general public can actually vote on.

This, for Switzerland, is political dynamite. The country's system of direct democracy is sacrosanct. The people are allowed to vote on any policy and to propose policy themselves, which is what they did on minarets.

Of course, this is precisely the attitude that gets you to this point. It's essentially considered racism, one of the worst of all modern crimes (perhaps second only to climate change 'denial'), to even bring up the idea that, "Hey, maybe there are certain things that don't fit with our country."

When the elites stifle debate and declare subjects of great importance beyond the pale of public discussion, the people will eventually make themselves heard and in ways that might be far more drastic than if they had a say earlier in the process.

Now with this wake up call, suddenly everyone wants more talk.

Elham Manea, founder of the Forum for a Progressive Islam - an organisation dedicated to Muslim integration in Switzerland - is disappointed not just with the outcome of the vote, but with the debate around it.

"The way the discussion was conducted was simply polemic," she said.

"We didn't ask the right questions, when we talked about integration problems for immigrants with an Islamic background.

"For example what is the size of political Islam, how big is the problem of forced marriage? Do we have that problem? Yes we do, we know we do, but which groups are practising it, and how do we deal with it?"

The problem for Ms Manea, and many Swiss Muslims, is that the ban on minarets does not really address any of these problems and may even isolate the community still further.

"My fear is that the younger generation will feel unwelcome," she said.

As for Muslims feeling unwelcome, for good or ill, I think that was the message behind the vote. It seems the Swiss don't want to have to deal with issues such as forced marriage or honor killings. Quite frankly, why should they? It's simply not part of Swiss heritage. Why should a country and society that has organized itself in a certain way suddenly have to adapt itself because a group of immigrants bring their culture and problems (from a Swiss perspective) with them?

As the Wall Street Journal points out, the actual act of banning minarets won't do much about these underlying issues. In fact, it "does too much and too little at once".

The vote betrays an undercurrent of fear among the Swiss—a fear that is not without cause. There is no denying the connection between radical imams and terrorist acts. Nor should anyone look away from the fact that too many European Muslims flatly reject the norms of their host countries, sometimes in ways that are criminal: honor killings, child brides and the like.

Yet banning minarets does nothing to address that fear. It merely makes it less likely that the average Swiss will be confronted by a visible symbol of Islam upon his skyline. Thus, even as a symbolic gesture, it seems to encourage a head-in-the-sand approach toward the 5% of Swiss who are Muslim. In much of Europe, this is the norm anyway, the result of political correctness and cowardice.

Immigration has been a great boon for many countries (namely the US) but it shouldn't be a national or cultural suicide pact. Unfortunately, once you move from the idea of a "melting pot" to a "multicultural mosaic" that's exactly what can happen.

Now that the people of Switzerland have the attention of their government and Muslim immigrants, will the reaction be to continue to sweep these tensions under the rug or make those groups confront some hard realities?

Given Europe's history on conflicts involving religion and ethnicity, I don't think this will end well for anyone.


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posted by DrewM. at 12:16 PM

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