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← Swiss ban on minarets was a vote for tolerance and inclusion

Swiss ban on minarets was a vote for tolerance and inclusion - Comments

nabil2199's Avatar Comment 1 by nabil2199

Singling out a minority is not the tolerant thing to do.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 15:30:00 UTC | #421760

NineBerry's Avatar Comment 2 by NineBerry


The most religious an area in Switzerland, the more support the ban had. The more enlightened parts of Switzerland voted against this ban:


I had a look at the history of women's suffrage in Switzerland.

There was a referendum on women's suffrage in Switzerland in 1959. 67% voted not to introduce women's suffrage.

Single Kantons introduced women's suffrage for local elections:

Waadt in February 1959
Neuenburg in September 1959
Geneva in 1960
Basel-Stadt in 1969

In 1971, in another referendum 66% vote for an introduction of women's suffrage on a national level because this was a prerequisite for Switzerland to be allowed to remain in European Council.

Even after that, not all Kantons had women's suffrage for local elections. The two last were Appenzell Ausserrhoden (small minority for women's suffrage in a referendum in 1989) and Appenzell Innerrhoden (after a majority had still voted against women's suffrage, the highest court ordered the Kanton to introduce women's suffrage in November 1990).

Why is this relevant? Well, let's look at the result of the minaret referendum:

The only four Kantons to vote against the minaret ban are Waadt, Neuenburg, Geneva and Basel-Stadt. Yes, correct, that were actually the four first Kantons to introduce woman's suffrage.

Now let's look at the Kanton with the highest vote for the minaret ban: Yes, you guessed it, it is Appenzell Innerrhoden, the last Kanton to introduce women's suffrage because it had to be ordered to do so by a court 19 years ago. They voted for the minaret ban with 71.4%.

So, indeed, the ban is not based on the idea of tolerance and freedom, it is based on traditionalism and an opposition to a different religion by traditional Christians

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 15:32:00 UTC | #421761

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 3 by Border Collie

I think the Swiss should be just as tolerant as, say, the Saudis would be if the Swiss went there and started constructing a Christian church or a secular university or as tolerant as an Islamist suicide bomber who singles out a minority of innocent airplane passengers or cafe customers.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 15:36:00 UTC | #421763

NineBerry's Avatar Comment 4 by NineBerry

Why, Border Collie?

When Swiss of Bosnian ancestry want to build a tower in Switzerland, what has that got to do with Saudi Arabia?

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 15:38:00 UTC | #421764

nabil2199's Avatar Comment 5 by nabil2199

So Border Collie, should all countries behave like the human rights blackhole that is saudi arabia?

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 15:42:00 UTC | #421769

root2squared's Avatar Comment 6 by root2squared

Apart from the fact that this is a very silly thing to do and solves absolutely nothing, I cannot think of a more idiotic title than this one. I think the writer needs to look up the definitions of inclusion and tolerance.

As always, the brilliant daily show cuts through the noise.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 15:52:00 UTC | #421772

Absinthius's Avatar Comment 7 by Absinthius

It is funny how so many people *know* why the votes went in favour of the ban. Because of tolerance and freedom or because of opposition to a minority.... You can throw statistics all you want and draw conclusions from women's suffrage votes held a few years ago. The fact is that, even thought it might be attacking 'just a symbol' but it is nevertheless a political statement as well.

What has been bothering me is the following: Why did they want to build more minarets in Switzerland in the first place? As I understand, and please do correct me if I am wrong here, the call for prayer is already banned in Switzerland. Which renders the minarets functionally useless and makes them pretty much a political statement of islam having a foothold in Switzerland by placing a rather prominent architectural stamp.

Having said that, I still haven't decided one way or the other whether to see this ban as something bad or something understandable from the Swiss perspective. As a person living in Amsterdam I would really oppose having such buildings rise over the typical Amsterdam architecture... I think it would really be bad for the charm of, say, a canal tour.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 15:54:00 UTC | #421774

tieInterceptor's Avatar Comment 8 by tieInterceptor

I think as an experiment we should mirror sharia law to Muslims, make them pay the Jizzia (infidel tax) and the rest of pleasantries reserved for the Dihmmi on the Islamic state... until they revert away from Islam... (revert.. oh so cocky) also we we should kill apostates, anyone that becomes a Muslim is apostatizing away from some creed no?

basically, we should apply back the Islamic state laws to them.

and if they want off that horrible burden, they just need leave the country or change religion or become atheists, anything but Islam...

I know, I'm talking nonsense... but at the same time, "applying intended-for-the-infidel-rules" back to the Muslims would make them realise how crazy those rules are...

and If they don't see those rules as crazy, well at least we get to hold'em by the beard and slap their faces and see them shamed and submitted while they pay extra taxes for the luxury of our "protection" ... letting them live in our countries requires protection money... and don't forget they don't get to build any new mosques or repair existing ones under their own rules.

seriously, the rules of the Islamic state against non-Muslims are so crazy that it wouldn't even work in a movie.

If you don't get what I'm talking about google for
dihmmi is. Or read the Pact of Umar,

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 16:08:00 UTC | #421780

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 9 by Nunbeliever

I think we have to be REALLY careful here. Yes, I agree with Ayaan Hirsi Ali that politcal islam is a real threat to democracy! But, is banning minarets the right way to tackle this problem? I'm, not quite sure.

The political situation in Switzerland is much more complicated than Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants to admit. The ban on minarets stems not from a public consensus that political islam is a threat to our democratic values. I wish the cause was that noble, but beyond the surface another reality emerges.

In many european countries (The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, France and now Switzerland; to mention a few) powerful xenophobic extreme right-wing forces have been set in motion. Do we really want to be associated with political faction like these? I sure hope that is NOT the case. We have to remember that these movements are not exactly motivated by critical thinking and rationality. Ironically many of the members are actually conservative christians. When frustrated by growing religious influence in the world, it is surely tempting to join forces with anyone critical of religion. But if we want to call ourselves rational supporters of critical thinking, we have to be able to see beyond the lip service populistic right-wing movements are paying us.

To my horror I saw the same tendecies a few years back when the right-wing politician Gert Wilders had his 15 minutes of fame with the film "Fitna". I surely hope that frustrated atheists will NOT hop on board THIS train without thinking who is actually running it and what the final destination is.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 16:10:00 UTC | #421782

Demotruk's Avatar Comment 10 by Demotruk

I can't agree with Ali.

We don't win the battle of ideas by banning the symbols of those ideas. That is the fascist approach, aren't we supposed to be liberal democracies?

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 16:20:00 UTC | #421784

dfledermaus's Avatar Comment 11 by dfledermaus

I generally hold Ayaan Hirsi Ali in high esteem for her courage in speaking out against Islamic repression but this essay has me shaking my head a bit. Ali says the minaret represents a collectivist political theory of supremacy by one group over all others the same way a swastika or a hammer and sickle does and that this is what Swiss voters were rejecting by banning it.

Really? Swiss voters are apparently a very sophisticated bunch; a premise belied by the fact that the ban received greater support in the more religious (IE: Christian) districts than elsewhere.

Taking Ali's premise about the political side of Islam to its logical conclusion, it would be more justifiable to ban Islam altogether than just its minarets, but does anyone really want to open that can of worms? Once you start down the road of religious intolerance, where do you stop? Switzerland can keep an eye on the more sinister aspects of Islam without betraying the Western ideals of freedom that make life there so superior to life under Islamic regimes.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 16:22:00 UTC | #421785

debaser71's Avatar Comment 12 by debaser71

Some liberals need some consistency. Here in the US there are liberals who say that Confederate flags need to be banned. And that nooses need to be banned. But these same liberals are against the banning of minarets.

And note, I am a liberal, I just disagree with my fellows sometimes.

eta: and note I say "some liberals" not "all liberals".

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 16:26:00 UTC | #421787

Demotruk's Avatar Comment 13 by Demotruk

Debaser, perhaps you should point out individuals guilty of hypocrisy rather than tar them with views they may not hold. I am against the ban on minarets, and I am also against a ban on any flag, idea or symbol.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 16:30:00 UTC | #421788

JackR's Avatar Comment 14 by JackR

Swiss plan for compromise on minarets:

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 16:34:00 UTC | #421792

bethe123's Avatar Comment 15 by bethe123

Better late than never. It is still good to see this article finally find its way to

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an expert on Islam, and has experienced the atrocities of Islam first hand.

Ayaan states an obvious fact that symbols are important in the battle of ideologies.
Further, since religion is core to this discussion, I found it shocking that there has appeared to be general ignorance of the importance of symbols in religion. Depending on one's approach to religion and how metaphysical one cares to be, symbols are considered as a path to the transcendent, and hence an essential part of religion. Yes, I understand this transcendent non-sense is not important for an atheist, and hence an aetheist may not be aware of it, but its an entirely different thing if you are religious.
Symbols are often very important.

When the "religion" is vile, oppressive and in its most pure form wants to install a theocracy, as is the case of Islam, then it is quite correct to state that the vote is a vote for tolerance and inclusion.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 16:44:00 UTC | #421799

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 16 by Steve Zara

There is a good blog entry about this:

The last paragraph is particularly good:

"But if liberal secularism is to be defended, and with it the non-discriminatory application of state power sometimes referred to as multiculturalism, an honest starting point would be to acknowledge that all not all cultures are equal. Some are inherently and officially bigoted, repressive and grotesquely hypocritical. And if we don't want to end up like that too, we probably shouldn't go imitating them."

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 17:21:00 UTC | #421817

Glacian's Avatar Comment 17 by Glacian

Why are MUSLIMS allowed in the country, much less their stupid minarets and buildings? Frankly, I'd PREFER if the public were directly and explicitly intolerant of Islam. Islam doesn't deserve tolerance, and it is grotesquely morally negligent and ignorant to tolerate that which is inherently intolerant, abusive, sexist, and prone to inducing people to acts of extraordinary violence - that is, Islam. Fuck Islam, may it be driven out of Europe with all the hatred and vitriole it so richly deserves.

I, for one, don't give a damn about "tolerance", which makes it all the more bizarre to me that those who do are so insistent upon calling for "tolerance" of that which is opposed to tolerance. This is as senseless as standing passively while your neighbor makes a bomb they've promised to drop on your home out of a sense of "keeping the peace". Stupid, stupid, stupid. If you're pro-tolerance, it only makes sense to be intolerant of that which is itself intolerant, otherwise, your cause is self-defeating.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 17:22:00 UTC | #421819

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 18 by God fearing Atheist

Can I make the analogy with genotype vrs. phenotype.

The target is the extreme Islamic genotype. The banned minarets are the phenotype.

However, minarets could also by the phenotype of a benign cultural Islam.

Conflation of the genotype and phenotype is a problem. Arguing over banning the symbol because of fundamental Islam, or allowing it because of liberal multiculturalism, is arguing over the phenotype, and I think is missing the target.

The question should surely be how to defuse the fundamental Islamic genotype and turn it into a benign religion.

I would have thought that would have started with a compulsory secular education from a very young age, schools with children of mixed religious/ethnic backgrounds (no ghetto schools), and a comparative religious education c.f. history (i.e. no preaching)

The minaret "problem" should be taken care of by local planning laws, which (in a secular society) should be treated no different from any other building.

The same argument goes for the burka.

(Women should have planning permission to wear one :-) )

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 17:42:00 UTC | #421835

isotropic's Avatar Comment 19 by isotropic

from a swiss perspective:

Almost immediately after the unexpected result many commentators were labeling the swiss as intolerant, racist, xenophobic, islamophobic, probably for the supposed crime of not having sought to understand islam well enough and having followed "diffuse fears" instead of (can I say western? universal seems a bit naive) principles. I wonder how many of those commentators just reacted instinctively, without an in-depth look at what had taken place, without understanding what they were condemning. The heavy turnout and the strong majority simply can't be explained in terms of the existing right-leaning voter base. Multiple motivations have to be taken into account, some of them temporary, which led to a "perfect storm".

A non-exhaustive list:

-habitual xenophobes
-irrational christians (still shockingly numerous here)
-failure of whomever (muslims, our establishment) to communicate the positive aspects of islam
-prevalence of negative communication on islam and related subjects in the media (including on rdf ;-)) for the last 1300 years ? I mean, as a personal test, can you name anything positive and specifically islamic or islam-related?
-negatively biased in-depth knowledge of islam, not ignorance and "diffuse fears".
-knowledge of laws and customs in countries with muslim majorities
-increasing demands from muslims for differentiated treatment (let's call it discrimination) in many public settings (food regulations at school, exempting girls from certain activities)
-iran's quest for nuclear weapons
-our foreign minister wearing a veil during a meeting with Mr. Ahmedinedjad to organize a gas deal between iran and a swiss company. Can you imagine the feeling of disconnection from the government such suppine behavior has fuel.
-gaddhafi's beduin antics
-some cities banning the anti-minaret posters in a counterproductive act of censorship
-totally predictable media demonization (ad nauseam) of the anti-minaret initiative
- very late attempt of some muslim communities to communicate positively.
- perceived slipperiness of moderate islamic communicators, standard response to any criticism: "but this is not islam".
- typically swiss "we'll show them" attitude
- next step: muezzins calling from the minarets
- risk of ghastly architectural implementation
- somwhere, the buck must stop, better now than when it's too late
- attempts by the OIC to instrumentalize the UNHRC
- Mr. Erdogans alleged "democracy is a streetcar..."

Obviously, it was not about the minarets. They were convenient as a symbol, arguably not essential for the exercise of religion, a pretext for many to express a diversely motivated opposition to islam. They knew full well they were betraying the very principles they were trying to defend, but were willing to pay that small price.

There also was widespread use of this vote as an example of how direct democracy can lead to mistakes, decisions not duly pondered, manipulation through "populists" etc..., and the advantages of representative systems, which were assumed to be immunized against such weakness. But it is not hard to find counter-examples where representative systems failed dismally in the face of obvious manipulation (WMDs as a justification for the invasion of iraq ? the people knew better).

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 18:08:00 UTC | #421849

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 20 by Nunbeliever

I think people are exaggerating this issue a bit. It is not like minarets would pop up in every street corner. All cities have plan drawings. You can't build controversial buildings like churches or synagogues anywhere you want. The building has to be approved by som governmental agency before the construction can begin. At least in Finland it would be out of the question to build old-fashioned churches with large steeples in population centres. New churches and synagogues tend to look more and more like normal buildings. Often the only sign that a building is a church is a cross (or a david's star) on the wall. So, I do not really see why a ban even is that necessary.

On the other hand, as someone else pointed out, minarets are sort of pointless if "adhan" (call to prayer) is not allowed. I have to admit that it is sort of hypcritical of muslims to claim that they are discriminated just because they are not allowed to build minarets. But still, I can't really find a good reason for why minarets should be banned by principle. As long as they are built in a way that fits the plan drawings. On the other hand I do not either see any problem with demanding that muslims conform their minarets to suit the plan drawings. Why on earth would we let them build 7th century buildings in a modern city.

It is all about trade-offs. Muslims can't expect to be allowed to build 200 meters high old-fashioned minarets in every street corner. And we have to realize that many european countries have large muslim population that should be entitled to express their religion and culture in public. Of course in a proper way. Why not arrange a competition where architects can design minarets that reflect a liberal europeanized form of islam. I think that could be a very fruitful endeavour.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 18:35:00 UTC | #421865

njwong's Avatar Comment 21 by njwong

If Islam had a good image, I believe the Swiss public would not have a problem with having the minarets built.

But the image of Islam is pretty bad. What's more, the moderate Muslims don't condemn the terrorism, misogyny, barbaric sharia laws, the whipping/execution of gays by the fundamentalist Muslim. With Islam having such an image, who would want to align one self with such a barbaric religion?

I think this whole criticism of the Swiss public is backwards. The Muslims - particularly the moderate ones - should be criticised for letting Islam become universally regarded as a backward and barbaric religion by non-Muslims. It is good that the Swiss has sent a clear and loud message to Muslims all over the world that the Swiss, the epitome of reason and enlightenment values, do not have a high regard for the "religion of peace".

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 18:40:00 UTC | #421868

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 22 by Nunbeliever

To isotropic: Thank you for your detailed summary.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 18:40:00 UTC | #421869

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 23 by Dr. Strangegod

isotropic - Thank you for the more nuanced view. I think the vote against minarets was foolish, but I understand why it happened. Islam is unfortunately not just another religion, it is a political system whose goals are essentially those of Cobra Commander.

And I sort of agree with Border Collie. I mean, most of us can't even set foot on certain parts of the planet because we are banned by an theocratic monarchy, much less may we erect a monument to secular democracy.

Why not arrange a competition where architects can design minarets that reflect a liberal europeanized form of islam. I think that could be a very fruitful endeavour.
Now that is not a bad idea.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 18:41:00 UTC | #421870

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 24 by Nunbeliever

To njwong:

Well, as I said in an earlier comment, it would be noble if that was actually the case. Unfortunately there are completely different winds blowing behind the scenes...

I think it is worrisome that many atheists seem too eager to join forces with right-wing extremists. I do not say that all the swiss are racists. But there are populistic movements nurturing these ideas. Not only in Switzerland but in many other European countries.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 18:48:00 UTC | #421875

isotropic's Avatar Comment 25 by isotropic

Sorry to belabor the point. It was not about the minarets. It was to express opposition to islam.
sorry- delayed traffic

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 18:56:00 UTC | #421880

Fujikoma's Avatar Comment 26 by Fujikoma

"But if liberal secularism is to be defended, and with it the non-discriminatory application of state power sometimes referred to as multiculturalism, an honest starting point would be to acknowledge that all not all cultures are equal. Some are inherently and officially bigoted, repressive and grotesquely hypocritical. And if we don't want to end up like that too, we probably shouldn't go imitating them."
So Germany should let the NAZIs do as they please£££ Even a tolerant society has to be intolerant to survive. It's not an all or nothing game, but a whole mess of grey area. That's the problem with monotheism... their god is always right. Not like the good ol' days of multiple gods getting their asses kicked because they could be wrong. History has tempered christianity (in general). Islam does not have luxury of that time due to the presence of nasty weapons and modern transportation. It really shouldn't have the luxury to carve each other up over it either given the age we live in.
I see no difference between the Klan and Islam, except that one is run by white people who don't like non-whites and one's run by like minded people that don't like people not following their religion.
This is rushed because I'm at work... I still feel Ayaan is correct, even if a lot of Swiss voters are bigoted. There is a difference.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 18:58:00 UTC | #421881

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 27 by Steve Zara

Comment #440393 by Nunbeliever

I think it is worrisome that many atheists seem too eager to join forces with right-wing extremists.

It is not just worrying, it's hypocritical: being intolerant and authoritarian is acceptable if we do it, because we are right.

So that's alright then.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 19:01:00 UTC | #421882

root2squared's Avatar Comment 28 by root2squared

I see no difference between the Klan and Islam, except that one is run by white people who don't like non-whites and one's run by like minded people that don't like people not following their religion.

All Klan members hate all non white people.
All Muslims do not hate all non Muslims.

Yeah. No difference.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 19:13:00 UTC | #421888

Glacian's Avatar Comment 29 by Glacian

root2squared, if only 90% of Klan members hated all non-whites, and the other 10% didn't but tacitly supported them anyway, would you suddenly become orders of magnitude more tolerant and respectful of the Klan?

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 19:17:00 UTC | #421890

bethe123's Avatar Comment 30 by bethe123

isotropic --

Your list may or may not be the reason some people voted as they did. I do not think it is, but again I am not Swiss. It is in any case event irrelevant to the current discussion, as you have put on your list items such as xenophobia, and by definition, phobias can never be a basis for rational behavior.

We are interested in exploring whether there is a strong rational argument for the vote against minarets. This is quite separate from parading a list of possible motivations, many of which you know are dubious.

What I believe does stand up to scrutiny for supporting the vote are the views espoused by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, both in her article and in various videos that can be found on the net. If you can present a rational refutation of her arguments against Islam and minarets, then please share.

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 19:20:00 UTC | #421891