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Swiss referendum on Minaret ban receiving widespread condemnation

Wednesday, December 02, 2009 01:39:53 PM, Staff Reporter

Minaret ban referendum wins Swiss support: Voters in Switzerland have approved a ban on the construction of minarets on mosques, official results show.Of those who cast votes in Sunday's poll, 57.5 per cent approved the ban, while only four cantons out of 26 rejected the proposals.... Read Full

Malegaon: The Swiss People's Party's referendum to ban the construction of Minaret in Switzerland that won the support from majority is receiving widespread condemnation from all corner of the world.


"Disgraceful. That is the only way to describe the success of a right-wing initiative to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland, where 57 percent of voters cast ballots for a bigoted and mean-spirited measure", writes The New York Times in its editorial November 30 terming the results as 'A Vote for Intolerance'.


Voters in Switzerland have approved a ban on the construction of minarets on mosques, official results show.


Of those who cast votes in Sunday's poll, 57.5 per cent approved the ban, while only four cantons out of 26 rejected the proposals.


Stating that, under Switzerland’s system of direct rule, the referendum is binding. Switzerland’s 400,000 or so Muslims, most of whom come from Kosovo and Turkey, are legally barred from building minarets as of now, The New York Times exhorted, "We can only hope that the ban is quickly challenged, and that the Swiss courts will find a way to get rid of it."


In Switzerland, Muslims amount to barely 6 percent of the population and there is no evidence of Islamic extremism. The New York Time writes, if its residents can succumb so easily to the propaganda of a xenophobic right-wing party, then countries with far greater Muslim populations and far more virulent strains of xenophobia best quickly start thinking about how to counter the trend.


"Banning minarets does not address any of the problems with Muslim immigrants, but it is certain to alienate and anger them", states The New York Times editorial.


After the official results of the referendum were known, far-right politicians celebrated, while the government sought to assure the Muslim minority that a ban on minarets was "not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture".


Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Switzerland's justice minister, said the result "reflects fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies".


"These concerns have to be taken seriously. However, the Federal Council takes the view that a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies," she said.


Meanwhile, the Swiss referendum has also concerned a vast majority of Muslims around the globe. While expressing shock over the results Muslims in general believe the move is an attack on their religious symbol. 


Farhad Afshar, who heads the Co-ordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland, said that "the most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote."

Taner Hatipoglu, the president of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Zurich, said, "The initiators have achieved something everyone wanted to prevent, and that is to influence and change the relations to Muslims and their social integration in a negative way. We are frightened, and if the atmosphere continues to be like this and if the anti-Islamic hate increases, then the Muslims indeed will not feel safe anymore. This of course is very unpleasant."


Egypt's Mufti Ali Gomaa denounced the ban on new minarets as an insult to all Muslims. "This proposal ... is not considered just an attack on freedom of beliefs, but also an attempt to insult the feelings of the Muslim community in and outside Switzerland."


Bernard Kouchner, a leftist who is French Foreign Minister, said that he had been shocked. Switzerland should reverse the decision quickly, he said. "If you are not allowed to build minarets, that means that religion is being oppressed."


About 400,000 Muslims live in Switzerland, whose population is just under eight million. Most Muslim citizens are immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey.


Although Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity, there are only four mosques with minarets in the whole country.


Posters by those backing the ban showed a figure of a woman shrouded from head to foot in a burka. Behind her is the Swiss flag, shaped like a map of the country, with black minarets shooting up out of it like missiles.

The cities of Basel, Lausanne and Fribourg banned the billboards, saying they painted a "racist, disrespectful and dangerous image" of Islam.


The United Nations Human Rights Committee called the posters discriminatory and said Switzerland would violate international law if it bans minarets.






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