Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Switzerland and the Muslims

Last Sunday, in their referendum, the Swiss voted to ban the construction of minarets. They did not ban mosques or Muslims, just their minarets.

The United Nations called Switzerland's ban on new minarets "clearly discriminatory" and deeply divisive. The French Foreign Minister said, "It is an expression of intolerance and I detest intolerance. I hope the Swiss will reverse this decision quickly." The Vatican condemned and Amnesty International said the vote violated freedom of religion and would probably be overturned by the Swiss Supreme Court or the European Court of Human Rights.

And yet, is it not possible that the Muslims have only their brothers to blame for this vote?

Last year, Libya’s dictator, Gaddafi, effectively waged war against Switzerland. He announced a halt to all oil exports to Switzerland and a withdrawal of moneys out of Swiss banks. Libya suspended the issuing of visas for Swiss nationals and forced Libyan branches of Swiss companies to close. In August this year, Libya submitted a proposal for discussion by the General Assembly of the United Nations to abolish Switzerland and dismember it.

What caused Libya’s anger? The audacity of the Swiss police: Gaddafi’s son, a man with a track record of trouble in various other countries, including France, Italy and Denmark, was arrested in Geneva and held in custody for two days for maltreating his domestic staff. His sister, Aisha, vowed "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" and Switzerland immediately surrendered; they even sent their President to Libya to apologize.

Could Sunday’s referendum be the Swiss popular response? The campaign against the minarets will have exacerbated xenophobia and racial intolerance in Switzerland. That is unattractive. Is it also understandable?