The Swiss minaret debate goes on

The new year continues as the old one ended: with discussing the Swiss minaret ban and its consequences. A prominent TV talk show hosted Justice minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Hisham Maizar, president of the Federation of Islamic Umbrella Organisations and Thomas Wipf of the Swiss Protestant Communion.

Starting off with a positive statement, Widmer-Schlumpf stated that at least “We finally discuss”. Maizar demanded a public and legal acknowledgment of Islam, while Wipf claimed it was still to early for that and that Muslims should be sensitive for being a minority among a majority – that includes not demanding the construction of minarets yet. He furthermore regretted the fact that there were so many different currents within Islam and that Swiss Muslims did not speak with one voice. This point was supported by Maizar, calling for a greater union within the Swiss Muslim community, which should be supported by the state. Widmer-Schlumpf, however, rejected this request as not being the task of the state.

Round table talks address Swiss Muslims’ problems

The vote to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland has been a wake-up call to both the government and Swiss Muslims, round table talks have shown. Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf met six representatives of Islamic organisations in Bern on Monday, to discuss the situation of Muslims in the light of the anti-minaret vote passed by the Swiss public on November 29.

It was the third such meeting since the anti-minaret initiative was launched, but the first since it was passed. Follow-up meetings are planned where specific proposals will be discussed. Topics discussed included mosque construction, Islamic cemeteries and growing Islamophobia.

Swiss Justice Minister opposes proposed minaret ban

Banning the construction of minarets is more likely to serve the cause of religious fanatics than to halt extremism, the Swiss justice minister said on Thursday. Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told a news conference in Bern that banning minarets would infringe basic human rights and endanger religious peace. A nationwide vote on the issue is to be held on November 29.

“Such a ban would clearly run counter to the basic values of the Swiss state, and would be incompatible with the fundamental rights and principles laid down in the constitution,” Widmer-Schlumpf said. She added that the ban would be discriminatory against Muslims, since other religious communities would not be affected. “We demand that the Muslims of Switzerland should respect our system of law and society,” she said. “If we expect this of Muslims, we must also treat them in the same way as everyone else living in the country as regards religious freedom.”

This comes shortly after the city of Zurich has approved the display of a controversial anti-Islamic poster of a far right party, showing a menacing looking woman in a burqa, next to minarets that closely resemble missiles standing on the Swiss flag. The party have been given the go-ahead by Zurich city council, which argues that they are a necessary component of free speech.