Switzerland wrong to ban minaret construction

Allison Lazarus

By Haleigh Miller, ’12, News Editor

Up until this point, I’ve been a big fan of Switzerland. They’ve got great chocolate and sophisticated banks, and the cuckoo clock is really something special. But now that the Swiss people have passed a law banning the construction of minarets (the towers on mosques)… well, I’m just not sure the chocolate is worth supporting that.

On Nov. 29, 58 percent of the Swiss population voted in favor of the new ban. This may just be me, but whenever such outlandish or discriminating laws are passed, my mind usually jumps to political corruption with an ulterior motive or serious bigotry. When something like this happens, I immediately wonder if I’ve unknowingly wandered into a time loop and ended up in the early 1950s, before the civil rights movement. Well, apparently there was no time loop and no government trickery, just prejudice against a religion that has taken about 50 times its fair share of heat in the past decade.

While I realize that Switzerland has taken no vow to be neutral on every subject and hasn’t guaranteed to be completely lacking in opinion, the fact that it was even possible for a neutral country to pass a law that so alienates an awkwardly large percentage of its population and foreign banking customers seems unbelievable. How on earth did 58 percent of the population think this was a good idea? Is it just to reach more architectural consistency? Even that would make more sense to me than for a country I formerly respected to take an action that will alienate an entire religious group. This is definitely an exaggeration, but it seems oddly reminiscent of something a certain German dictator might have come up with in the early ’40s…

To me personally, by far the most frightening thing about this whole mess is that the government didn’t institute the ban behind the people’s backs. The issue was voted upon and passed. Now, half the government is scrambling around trying to find a loophole to avoid implementing the law! Am I the only one who sees how backwards this is? Isn’t it the government that usually screws something up and the people who have to protest? This isn’t a pro-anarchy observation; I just can’t seem to remember any other instance in which the government had to work to undo something the people had screwed up on their own.

Sure, the government isn’t blameless. There are certainly supporters. How else did the propaganda posters get plastered onto billboards? How is a woman wearing a burka, standing before black minarets exploding from the Swiss flag, with something to the gist of “stop now-ban minarets” written across it acceptable? Would someone, anyone, please explain to me how this happened and no one stopped it?

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how to fix this. I don’t understand the Swiss government, but according to a Swiss friend of mine, it takes an excessively long time to get anything done. At this point, my only hope is that someone who understands a) how this happened and b) how to fix it comes up with a plan in the very near future, because no religion, no people, deserve to have their beliefs stifled by a government, no matter what their land of origin is, who they are, or what a minority has done to mar their reputation.

Photo courtesy of gulfnews.net.