Switzerland has banned the construction of minarets in a referendum called by the right-wing People’s Party. 57.5 percent voted in favor of the proposal.
The government must respect the outcome, but maintains it does not represent “a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture.”
It may seem odd for one of the wealthiest and safest countries in the world to oppose the architectural display of a foreign culture, especially since of the 150 mosques and prayer rooms in Switzerland only four boats minarets. Two more were planned. None conduct the traditional call to prayer.
Moreover, of the circa 400,000 Muslims in the Alpine country, on a population of 7.5 million, almost none adhere to the codes of dress and conduct associated with orthodox Islam. The Muslim presence in Switzerland is hardly noticeable.
The Associated Press reports 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.”
Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders immediately called for a similar referendum to be held in the Netherlands. He is unlikely to succeed but has around 17 percent support in the polls, making his the second-largest party.
Unlike the United States, which fell victim to a destructive attack by Muslim extremists, most European countries never experienced such extremism first hand. Yet the countries that have (Britain and Spain) appear to be the least concerned about visible signs of Islamic culture.