Following a controversial Swiss referendum to ban mosques with minarets, Christian Democratic state interior ministers in Germany on Thursday recommended Muslims show restraint when building houses of worship. “Naturally the Muslims in Germany have a right to build mosques. But they should make sure not to overwhelm the German population with them,” Hessian Interior Minister and conservative Christian Democrat Volker Bouffier told daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.
Large mosque minarets or domes that dominate the skyline will only create fears of Islamisation and fuel protests, Bouffier told the paper, explaining that the country’s state interior ministers would address the topic during their regularly scheduled conference on Thursday. Afterwards the ministers plan to make an appeal to Muslim associations to avoid such structures, even if they are legal according to building regulations, in addition to “further intensifying the dialogue with Muslims in Germany,” he told the paper.
Attempts to prevent the construction of mosques in Germany have made national headlines in recent years. This November workers in Cologne broke ground on a large, futuristic mosque with 55-metre minarets after it drew protestors from across the continent – including right-wing extremists.
In this editorial French philosopher and writer Abdennour Bidar considers the consequences of the minaret ban for Muslims in France. The culture of fear and of political Islam in particular is of concern, he claims. Bidar points to how both sides can act in reaction in this climate. Please see the article to appreciate the complex philosophical article he makes about identity and alterity.
Le Figaro interviews CFCM, French Council of the Muslim Faith, president Mohammed Moussaoui on the Swiss minaret ban. Moussaoui explains his surprise and regret with the decision. He claims that unwarranted fear led to the majority vote, and to an extremist vote. He reminds that in France fewer than 2 percent of mosques have minarets. Moussaoui does not personally agree with burqa-use, and is against a ban.
The minaret ban in Switzerland has had a continentwide response. Even as European human-rights courts began attempts to block the Swiss amendment, extremist politicians across Europe were examining their countries’ laws to see if a similar referendum could be accomplished.
Far-right leaders have emerged from the woodwork in places like the Netherlands to push for similar bans. Yet, of Switzerland’s 400,000 Muslims, representing less than 5 percent of the population, the largest group are of European background, with ancestors from the historically Muslim Balkan countries of southeast Europe – in other words, they are as culturally and historically European as any Christian Swiss citizen.
The extreme right in Belgium have also reacted strongly.
These two articles explain how the National Front has mobilized itself around the minaret ban in Switzerland to “reopen” questions of identity and immigration in France.
This article claims that Muslims in the Northern French city of Lille feel that the recent Swiss ban on minarets sends a very bad message for the acceptance of Muslims in Europe. One man interviewed pointed to the positive incorporation of the Mosque of Paris’ minaret within local architecture.
Bernard Kouchner claims to be scandalized by the Swiss vote on minarets, calling it an “expression of intolerance.” Marine Le Pen, the vice-president of the extreme right congratulated the Swiss populace for the vote.
Jean-Paul Willaime, director of the European Institute of Religious Sciences, claims that the Swiss response is more of a secularist response to religion in the public sphere than one counter to Islam. However, he warns that it is the state and public institutions which are secular, however, not civil society. Islam, says Willaime, has become the litmus for European interrogations on identity, particularly because the vestiges of religious heritage and concern for religion still remain despite widespread secularism. Esther Benbassa, director of the Ecole pratique des hautes études (EPHE) suggests that in the era of globalization, fear creates a desire to create oneself against an Other, who today, are Muslims.