Swiss Vote to Ban Minarets

A majority of the Swiss vote in a referendum to ban the construction of new minarets.

In a referendum proposed by the Swiss People’s Party, the Schweizerische Volkspartei, an alliance of farmers and urban conservatives, a majority of Swiss voters (57.5 percent) agreed to ban the construction of minarets in their country. The government, perfectly democratic, will uphold the outcome while assuring Muslims, mostly immigrants from the Balkans and Turkey, that the vote does not represent “a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture.”

It seems odd that one of the wealthiest and safest countries in the world should be so frightened of this architectural display of Islamic culture, especially when one considers that of the 150 mosques and prayer rooms in Switzerland, just four boats minarets with only two more planned. None conduct the traditional call to prayer. Moreover, of the circa 400,000 Muslims in the country, out of a total population of some 7.5 million, virtually none adhere to the codes of dress and conduct associated with orthodox Islam. In other words, the Muslim presence in Switzerland is hardly noticeable.

The Associated Press notes that the vote “taps into anxieties about Muslims that have been rippling through Europe in recent years, ranging from French fears of women in body veils to Dutch alarm over the murder by a Muslim fanatic of a filmmaker who made a documentary that criticized Islam.” In fact, Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders immediately called for a similar referendum to be held in the Netherlands today. Considering the opposition he faces in parliament, such a referendum, let alone a ban, is unlikely to come about, but with his support currently polling at around 17 percent (making him the second-largest party), Wilders’ fierce crusade against what he believes is a growing Muslim corruption of Western culture is telling.

Unlike the United States, which actually fell victim to a destructive attack by Muslim extremists, most European countries never experienced such extremism first hand. Yet the countries that have (specifically Britain and Spain) seem the least determined to wipe out any traces of Islamic culture whereas in France, the Netherlands and Switzerland, countries that have significant Muslim populations, fear is more widespread.

When Geert Wilders declares the Quran a “fascist” book and proposes to outlaw it, he finds many people agreeing with him. Now, a majority of the Swissdemand that no more minarets be erected in their streets. These are all outward displays of Islam however. Burning the Quran or banning minarets will do little to diminish the threat of Muslim extremism. Quite to the contrary, such measures might well strengthen the fundamentalists in their conviction that the West intends to wage a religious war against them.

Meanwhile, the voice of moderate Islam is overlooked. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have adapted perfectly to Western culture while retained part of their heritage feel threatened. While perhaps not an explicit infringement of their freedom to worship, the Swiss ban of minarets is a sad display of intolerance all the same that is terribly unbecoming of a country renowned for its democratic tradition.


  1. The growth of islamophobia is one of the largest threat to European society. Attacking what in many countries constitutes the largest immigrant group serves only to further rip society apart. If one wants to defend our values why launch a full scale attack on one of the most important; the freedom of religion? And if one is concerned over islamic fundamentalism, why play straight into their hands? Fear and ignorance has once again triumphed against common decency and sense,

  2. Proponents argue that this ban does not actually infringe the freedom of religion. That’s a bit cowardice, as I see it. It’s obviously an unnecessary government restriction anyway, and one that’s bound to upset many people of a particular religion.

    Besides, you’re completely right that this is playing straight into the hands of the extremists. They’ve yet another argument now to denounce the West.

  3. It seems that populism more often than not leads to the restrictions of rights of minority groups–reference every state in the US where gay marriage has been voted on.

  4. Indeed. That’s why a republic needs laws to protect minorities. The voting down of same-sex marriage is even more blatant example of a majority restricting the rights of a minority. There is no rational excuse for denying any group of people a right that the majority does have. A righteous government ensures that.

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