Following his participation in the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies at Neuchâtel University, Muslim migration expert H. A. Hellyer tells swissinfo.ch that he is more worried about the “festering discontent” that led to the minaret ban than the ban itself.
Hellyer states that he was not surprised that there such a ban should arise in Europe, though he was surprised that it occurred in Switzerland. He contests the idea that the vote was not against the Swiss Muslim community but rather against the spread of Islam in the country, and emphasises that the ban has virtually nothing to do with Swiss Muslims but rather reflects questions of identity for non-Muslim Swiss and their perception of Muslims. Hellyer argues that the overturning the ban legally is not the issue, and neither are foreign provocations such as the “holy war” called for by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. Rather, Islam has become a convenient excuse for the Swiss, like for many other Europeans, to avoid defining “what we are, as opposed to what we are not,” following the changes brought on by globalization. Governments have a role to play in this challenge, but inevitably so does the media, civil society, and the Muslim community itself.