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29 Nov, 2009 06:47

Swiss mosques under threat by right wingers

The Swiss have given their overwhelming approval for a ban on the construction of minarets on mosques in the country. The results of the referendum held on Sunday were condemned as anti-Islamic by Muslims.

The ban was proposed by a right wing party, which says the towers are a political symbol.

Ulrich Schlüer, of the Swiss People’s Party and the architect of the campaign sees them as signs of creeping Islamization.

“We have some imams who openly say that their goal is to introduce Shariah law also in Switzerland. Since then we have a problem with the political symbol of the minaret as a symbol of introducing another law in Switzerland,” claims Schlüer.

Imam Ahmed Sadaqat is critical of Schlüer’s statement, saying minarets have a spiritual significance, and in no way a political one.

“It is a symbol of the Muslim community, a physical manifestation of the community. This is what makes a mosque visible in the neighborhood. Nothing more than that,” he explained.

The majority of around half a million Muslims living in the country go to warehouses or gyms to pray. While baring scant resemblance to a normal mosque, Swiss Muslims admit they do not need a minaret for their prayers, but trying to ban them altogether is an insult to their faith.

“They are not against the construction of minarets. They are against Muslims and the religion itself. They show they do not want us here,” one Muslim told RT.

In addition, Swiss government officials were quick to condemn a referendum initiative launched by the right wingers, saying it violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

The word on the street

Switzerland has a long history of neutrality and tolerance, but just how impartial are the Swiss when it comes to religion?

One woman on the streets of Zurich told RT, “It is not that we are against Muslims, but we think in order to believe, you do not necessarily need the minaret.”

“No, I am against this initiative, I think every religion should be free to express their own faith and also in the buildings,” another man said.

Condemning the move, one citizen summed up his feelings:

“It is idiotic. It is like putting a crossmark on our foreheads where we had none before. There is absolutely no reason to ban the mosques.”

One mosque adorned with a minaret in the Swiss capital has sat side-by-side with a Christian church for decades without incident, but if the right wing nationalism creeping into the country finds ground, the tranquility Switzerland is famous for could become a thing of the past.