Simon Hilber, Jerusalem
The Swiss voted. Minarets are now forbidden in Switzerland. The logic behind banning those minarets is, that they are seen as an imperialistic symbol of Islam. If Islam means surrender or submit – those minarets are seen as a sign that the country is already surrendering or at least should do so according to the Muslims. Sadly of course this kind of understanding of minarets is exactly the same as the understanding by the Islamists. The Swiss people decided by this vote that they agree with the interpretation of the Islamists and not the one of moderate Muslims.
On a different level than the obvious: that the decision mirrors a xenophobic sentiment, that banning minarets might constitute an undue limitation of freedom of religion, the real issue is, that this decision overshadows the real problems of Swiss-Islamic relations. The very same state that makes deals with Iran, that has its Foreign Minister wear a head scarf abroad to bewitch senile Muftis, the same country that succumbs to pressure of the likes of madman Gaddafi, now makes this useless and purely symbolic policy, while doing nothing to fight the worst Islamists. On the contrary: it tries to do them nice. Banning minarets wont help the real problems of Muslim integration into Swiss society: suppression of women, “honour” killings, petty crime, etc.
From an Israeli perspective this vote must seem quite absurd. European-Islamic relations still seem to be in an infantile state. The Swiss Muslim population consists of merely 6 % of the whole population – compared to 20% in Israel. What did the Swiss Muslim do? They do not constitute an demographic threat. They surely did not wage half a dozen wars or intifadas on Swiss Christians, there were no suicide bombings in Zurich or Bern, not even stabbings. I also do not know of burning cars like in France.
In Israel nobody would think of such policies. If anything one might say that Israel has been extremely lenient. The administration of the holiest place for Jews, the Temple Mount, has been handed over to the Muslim Waqf, mosques inside Israel have been preserved, even when the Muslim population left (as after the 1948/49 war), new mosques are being built “every day”, naturally with a minaret, naturally with a call of prayers, and naturally with green lights on their top, making them visible from afar. Islamists like Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, can exercise their right of expression at will, even if it clearly constitutes hate speech.
There are some things European states might be able to learn from Israel: The disillusioned, matter-of-fact integration of a very large minority, which does not share the same religious and cultural values, might (despite all its flaws) be such an example. The incorporation of sharia law in questions of marital law is heatedly discussed in Europe, while a similar concept is not alien to the Israeli legal system, since a long time. Again it would be playing into the Islamists hands if one would regard Sharia as a law that only can mean chopping peoples’ hands off and suppressing women. Israel shows how Islamic legal traditions can be reconciled and interlaced with a modern and enlightened system.
Minarets are not a problem, Sharia is not necessarily a problem. The Swiss people were ill-advised to ban minarets. They should rather make sure that they know exactly what happens inside the mosques. They should make sure that moderate ideas become prevalent, they should make sure that Wahabi or Khomeinist Islam is not tought to adults and children alike. And they should make sure that their leaders abstain from signing lucrative gas deals with petty and cruel Iranian dictators, who suppress and murder their own people and have wet dreams of genocide. This is what really counts.