My compatriots’ vote to ban minarets is fuelled by fear

The Swiss have voted not against towers, but Muslims. Across Europe, we must stand up to the flame-fanning populists

By Tariq Ramadan    guardian.co.uk, Sunday 29 November 2009

It wasn’t meant to go this way. For months we had been told that the efforts to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland were doomed. The last surveys suggested around 34% of the Swiss population would vote for this shocking initiative. Last Friday, in a meeting organised in Lausanne, more than 800 students, professors and citizens were in no doubt that the referendum would see the motion rejected, and instead were focused on how to turn this silly initiative into a more positive future.

Today that confidence was shattered, as 57% of the Swiss population did as the Union Démocratique du Centre (UDC) had urged them to – a worrying sign that this populist party may be closest to the people’s fears and expectations. For the first time since 1893 an initiative that singles out one community, with a clear discriminatory essence, has been approved in Switzerland. One can hope that the ban will be rejected at the European level, but that makes the result no less alarming. What is happening in Switzerland, the land of my birth?

There are only four minarets in Switzerland, so why is it that it is there that this initiative has been launched? My country, like many in Europe, is facing a national reaction to the new visibility of European Muslims. The minarets are but a pretext – the UDC wanted first to launch a campaign against the traditional Islamic methods of slaughtering animals but were afraid of testing the sensitivity of Swiss Jews, and instead turned their sights on the minaret as a suitable symbol.

Every European country has its specific symbols or topics through which European Muslims are targeted. In France it is the headscarf or burka; in Germany, mosques; in Britain, violence; cartoons in Denmark; homosexuality in the Netherlands – and so on. It is important to look beyond these symbols and understand what is really happening in Europe in general and in Switzerland in particular: while European countries and citizens are going through a real and deep identity crisis, the new visibility of Muslims is problematic – and it is scary.

At the very moment Europeans find themselves asking, in a globalising, migratory world, “What are our roots?”, “Who are we?”, “What will our future look like?”, they see around them new citizens, new skin colours, new symbols to which they are unaccustomed.

Over the last two decades Islam has become connected to so many controversial debates – violence, extremism, freedom of speech, gender discrimination, forced marriage, to name a few – it is difficult for ordinary citizens to embrace this new Muslim presence as a positive factor. There is a great deal of fear and a palpable mistrust. Who are they? What do they want? And the questions are charged with further suspicion as the idea of Islam being an expansionist religion is intoned. Do these people want to Islamise our country?

The campaign against the minarets was fuelled by just these anxieties and allegations. Voters were drawn to the cause by a manipulative appeal to popular fears and emotions. Posters featured a woman wearing a burka with the minarets drawn as weapons on a colonised Swiss flag. The claim was made that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Swiss values. (The UDC has in the past demanded my citizenship be revoked because I was defending Islamic values too openly.) Its media strategy was simple but effective. Provoke controversy wherever it can be inflamed. Spread a sense of victimhood among the Swiss people: we are under siege, the Muslims are silently colonising us and we are losing our very roots and culture. This strategy worked. The Swiss majority are sending a clear message to their Muslim fellow citizens: we do not trust you and the best Muslim for us is the Muslim we cannot see.

Who is to be blamed? I have been repeating for years to Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and proactive within their respective western societies. In Switzerland, over the past few months, Muslims have striven to remain hidden in order to avoid a clash. It would have been more useful to create new alliances with all these Swiss organisations and political parties that were clearly against the initiative. Swiss Muslims have their share of responsibility but one must add that the political parties, in Europe as in Switzerland have become cowed, and shy from any courageous policies towards religious and cultural pluralism. It is as if the populists set the tone and the rest follow. They fail to assert that Islam is by now a Swiss and a European religion and that Muslim citizens are largely “integrated”. That we face common challenges, such as unemployment, poverty and violence – challenges we must face together. We cannot blame the populists alone – it is a wider failure, a lack of courage, a terrible and narrow-minded lack of trust in their new Muslim citizens.

Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, is professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University. His most recent book is What I Believe

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

77 Comments

Filed under culture, Democracy, Europe, Identity, Images, Islam, minorities, Religion, Rights

77 responses to “My compatriots’ vote to ban minarets is fuelled by fear

  1. Milind Kher

    What is happening is frightening. The world is slowly uniting against the Ummah.

    Terrorism, suppression of women, and expansionism are the three sore points that the Non Muslims have against Muslims. The tragic part is that they have substantial justification.

    Being defensive or reactionary is not going to help. People will throw out the baby with the bathwater, with the result that none of the good that Islam or Muslim society has to offer will be accepted.

    To make their voice heard in the world, Muslims have to build up respect for themselves. Violence and takfir will not help. Goodwill, cooperation, and the ability to stand up for principles will all have to be combined.

  2. sojournertruths

    “They fail to assert that Islam is by now a Swiss and a European religion and that Muslim citizens are largely “integrated”. ”
    only if your assertion is true. Do muslims feel they belong to the respective countries they have made their homes? Almost all muslims feel that they belong to Saudi Abrabia the land of Allah and a new world order around Islam has to be resurrected.

  3. Junaid

    Just goes on to explain that any country is susceptible to religious extremism and racial intolerance.

    Bigotry and hate mongering are not the sole characteristics of third world countries.

  4. Wsmith

    Yet, when the Saudis and indeed most muslim (at least arab muslim) countries prohibit the construction of churches and temples in their lands, is it not bigotry and hate mongering?

    This excuse has been used by the far-right often enough, and I am loath to drag this debate down to the level of the “maggot minded, starved, fanatic crew”, but it would be nice to hear a muslim talk about this as well. Self pity is ridiculous when you are the perpetrators of the same alleged crime in your own countries. And the Swiss haven’t banned the construction of mosques (yet). Its just the minarets – which is bad enough.

    Still, this is an absurd vote which clearly singles out the muslims. It makes the swiss looks insecure and ridiculous. It only undermines their own reputation for neutrality and will have its consequences. This is not the first time Europe has been made to look ridiculous – soon after the Danish cartoons, while Europe bleated about freedom of expression, David Irving was imprisoned in Austria for denying the holocaust.

    The outcome of the vote is distrubing, but instead of calling the Swiss bigoted and racist (thats the easy way to do it), ask what has made a seemingly netural and docile people vote this way. The answers could be interesting.

  5. Milind Kher

    This is precisely why it is important to have a secular state. That way, you don’t have to worry whtether it is a church or a mosque or whatever that is being constructed.

    Yet, if the activities in the building are not favorable for the nation where that building stands, shut it down.

    Everybody knows that the Holy Prophet (SAWA) had the Zirar Mosque set on fire as the munafiqeen (hypocrites) used it for trying to foment trouble.

  6. sojournertruths

    @wsmith “ask what has made a seemingly netural and docile people vote this way. The answers could be interesting.”
    I mean it would be very interesting to understand why Islam or its practice, causing so much anxiety among the others. I believe that these reasons should atleast fall under the category of “genuine concerns”, if not bigotry on the part of such muslims. Is it the religion or the followers, who are propelling this anxiety? But, truth is that the whole world, please count the whole world right from Asia to America’s are anxious about Islam or Islamification.
    P.S.: I do not believe that muslims at large are a threat to the world.

  7. vajra

    @sojournertruths
    @junaid

    sojournertruths did little to answer why Hindus or Christians shouldn’t be allowed to worship even in private in Saudi Arabia. Do these weak and effete religions pose such a threat to such a strong religion?

  8. Its a classic ,”run with hares and hunt with hounds” by Tariq Ramadan.
    I agree with him that Xenophobia is on rise in Europe but Mr Ramadan is hardly the representative of liberal democracy.
    Mr Ramadan himself presentes a highly dogmatic Islamic show on Iranian English propagada channel Press TV.
    He is playing to a populist Islamist youth audience of Europe while complaining about rightwing populists in Europe.

  9. wsmith

    I mean it would be very interesting to understand why Islam or its practice, causing so much anxiety among the others.

    Use the Danish Cartoons as an example. A Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons, all of which depicted the Muhammed, and one of which could have be offensive to some people. This islamic rule against depiction of the prophet was not binding on the Danes. Interestingly, the most ‘offensive’ of these images that was distributed among the masses – one which depicted mohammed as a pig – was the creative addition of one of the Danish mullahs.

    For the crime of publishing these cartoons, Danish embassies are burnt, the country is subjected to a vile economic boycott and they don’t quite know what hit them. And if that isn’t bad enough, liberals and lefties all around the world accuse them of being ‘racist’ and insensitive to the muslims.

    Do you really blame people – from Asia to America- for being anxious then? When just one of the minorities in your country claims a special right to be offended, and if any subsequent minor offence invites attacks on your embassies and compatriots all over the world, would you not be nervous too?

  10. Punjabi

    This piece in CSM is worth a read: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1201/p08s01-comv.html

    I have seen a lot of blather about how minarets are not central tenets of islam or how this is just about building codes and not a restriction of freedom of religion, but it is clear that the swiss were offered an opportunity to single out muslims for censure and they took the opportunity.

    Its islamophobia for sure. I have even seen anti-islamic american right leaning types say that its Islamophobia.

    But then western societies are not made up of more evolved human beings that our societies in the east are. They are taking hizb-ut-tehreer, the murderer of theo van gogh, the reaction to the danish cartoons, etc as leading symptoms of europe under siege from foreign, intolerant uneuropean Islam.

    That is no excuse for the bigotry that the swiss seem to be dipping their toes into, but a blanket dismissal of european fears with a glib “they’re islamophobes” denies that Europeans and americans are starting to ask why they have to be so tolerant all time of muslims when muslims countries like Saudi Arabia show no signs of reciprocating and why religious freedom must mean tolerance of the expansion of uneuropean cultural values into Europe.

    My reaction to this in every venue I speak in is that the muslims who are innocent of the bigotry that is fear should not be made to feel victims of general anti-islamic sentment, that blanket discrimination and censure of muslims is wrong.

    I am going to keep saying that, but in the end its going to to be up to muslims to demonstrate that their expansion into europe and the west does not mean that they bring with them values that the Americans and the Europeans are fearful of.

    This may be an unfair, unreasonable, bigoted expectation, or it may not, but there it is.

  11. YLH

    While minarets have nothing to do with religion, the Swiss have shown ignorance of the worst kind to legislate on this issue so shamelessly.

    What next? Would it be crime to have Muslim names? Or speak in Arabic or Turkish or Persian or Urdu?

  12. Milind Kher

    @YLH,

    It is all sheer Islamophobia. Can’t really do much about it. Maybe we can ask Hamza Yusuf to use his good offices with Obama to ask him to intervene.

    But that may be a long shot..

  13. sojournertruths

    @Vajra – I completely agree that non-muslims should be allowed to practice their religions.
    After going through all the comments and views expressed therein, I can conclude that the protectionism of Islam (by certain states) is reponsible for the anxiety among non-muslims.
    But, it further strengthens the argument @Punjabi presented that innocent muslims should not be marginalised; a valid point.
    But @Punjabi, don’t you think that these innocent muslims should support the non-muslims who are being marginalised. Why the civilised muslims feel and act docile before these protectionist muslims? Why they seem to endorse the protectionist policies of discrimination against non-muslims in wake of preserving purity of Islam
    by these states (states like Saudi Arabia; no other religion be practiced in the land of Allah)?
    @vajra – I am non-muslim; But I can’t ignore the truth. No other religion has been able to succeed in such a small period of time. It is ofcourse a strong religion and we should not be afraid of it.

  14. Milind Kher

    Saudi Arabia will never change its stance. As the country that lodges the Harmain Sharif, it has to always project itself as Uber Islamic. This, and intolerance in other “Islamic” states builds up hatred, unfortunately, for ALL Muslims in the eyes of Non Muslims.

    Unfortunately, the face of Islam that presents itself to the world is a hostile and belligerent one.

  15. Fact is Muslims never integrate into the society in which they live, excepting in Muslim countries.It is too much of a simplification of the issue that Europe has been waiting for an issue.No.It is due to terrorism unleashed in the Name of Islam and also the transnational loyalty of Muslims..People who follow Islam,,can stop both acts if they take concrete steps by openly ostracizing terror groups,instead of being ambivalent.
    Remember, as you sow, so you reap.

  16. Punjabi

    sojournertruths,

    you asked me “don’t you think that these innocent muslims should support the non-muslims who are being marginalised. ”

    They should. but if they don’t, should they be denied tolerance for themselves? And if they are denied, then the tolerance offered them is conditional and really quite valueless because it is not anchored on principle. Tomorrow you could change the conditions required to “earn” tolerance.

    Modern Western ideology calls for a man or a group to not be judged or singled out for what they believe or say or who or how they worship. Its never been 100% perfect but its been better than anywhere else. And Westerners are being asked to abide by this principle of theirs at a time that they are growing increasingly frustrated by the complete lack of any reciprocation from the “other side.”

    The west’s salvation does not lie in surrendering the values it proclaims are its own. Which is why the swiss vote must be criticized.

    There is a further problem here. Let us say that you’re dissatisfied by the lack of moderate muslims vocally joining the west in demanding tolerance from intolerant muslim societies like Saudi Arabia. How will that sentiment, if held widely, affect the muslim individual who does what you ask but is swept along on the wave of islamophobia anyway? the muslim from india, the one from bangladesh, the one from turkey are all guilty through association with the fanatics who have become the face of islam.

    The west sees the face of the fanatic, not the face of the silent majority.

    The silent majority had better start speaking up.

    I have seen a pakistani forum where the same person will spit out contemptuous references to “kuffar” and then complain about islamophobia in the next breath.

    I saw a guy wearing a T-shirt that said on it “proud to be a kafir”. Its pretty damned offensive, but its also a fair response by people who feel offended by the contempt they perceive flung their way.

    The west is the most tolerant society in the world by far, atleast the english speaking countries are. but their is a general feeling that not only are muslim countries completely inflexible on adopting values of tolerance, that muslim immigrants are not adopting western values either.

    You can accuse the west of being intolerant and bigoted. They may be so but they are also some of the the least intolerant societies in the world and it would behoove muslim societies to introspect on why they expect tolerance from the west.

    I once asked a pakistani who was a naturalizedAmerican citizen) who was ranting about American islamophobia how he resolved this with his acceptance of intolerance by muslims. he said to me “I am only holding them accountable for the attitudes they proclaim are their own. they are hypocrites. we are not”. I asked him why he said “they” to americans when he is a citizen himself. He waffled the answer but it was clear that he considers himself a muslim, america is just a way to make money and have a comfortable life, and he justifies it by thinking that he is here to advance the cause of Islam.

    Islamophobia is real, anti-muslim bigotry is real, most muslims don’t deserve it. But muslims need to start acknowledging the portion of the discordance that lies with muslims and start articulating and vocalizing positions against it. Otherwise, the rest of the world isn’t going to know that there are muslims who are all the things that their critics say, and there are muslims who aren’t.

  17. Pingback: My compatriots’ vote to ban minarets is fuelled by fear « Ramanan50's Blog

  18. Punjabi

    By the way, I say the above as a resident of the United States.

    my perspective on Indian muslims is completely the opposite. It is more than enough that they are merely trying to be good citizens of India while under pressure from right wing hindu national forces that they be expected to join an international debate on tolerance and intolerance between islam and the west.

    but in so far as a typical educated Indian muslim with no immediate worries about his security and livelihood can participate in the international debate, he should. He SHOULD talk about what he thinks about tolerance, pluralism, inter communal harmony, democracy, freedom of speech and the value of a secular state.

  19. sojournertruths

    @Punjabi – You and me are on the same plane except that you said, ” And if they are denied, then the tolerance offered them is conditional and really quite valueless because it is not anchored on principle. Tomorrow you could change the conditions required to “earn” tolerance.”

    Any reasonable person with certain principles will expect the other party to reciprocate in a similar fashion if not greater. Therefore, let the conditions be equal for both the parties to keep the game fair.
    A principled person will be eventually tempted to defect, seeing that nobody else is ready to cooperate. Let me save my ass, when everybody is doing so.

    Secondly, silence means agreement my dear friend. If the larger face of liberal muslims remains silent then, one can only conclude that they are in agreement to the rest of the folks.

    And, I think the problem could be addressed by muslims only. You need to criticise openly the fundamentalists within Islam for creating such situations; While rest of us need to be more patient and help our muslims brothers to confront these fundamental forces. Actually, these fundamentalist derive their powers from your silence only; Once you will start speaking and they will vanish.
    @Punjabi – I sincerely thank you for putting your perspective so beautifully.
    Please feel free to visit my blog and comment.
    http://sojournertruths.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/radically-islam/

  20. sojournertruths

    @ramanan50 – “Fact is Muslims never integrate into the society in which they live, excepting in Muslim countries.”
    I tend to differ on this perspective; Islam as a religion thrived in the foreign shores because it was able to integrate into existing belief systems of these countries. Islam diversified as it passed through south asia; see Sufi’s from central asia and moderate Islam of Indonesia. But, your argument has weight as these are the matters of past.
    Yes, we see a lot of withdrawal symptoms among muslims these days; But, they are not alone to be blamed. Atleast, we should help the willing lot to integrate within our societies (be it west or east).

  21. sojournertruths

    @Punjabi – 1 of my previous comment has gone into moderation.
    Anyways, I don’t agree that Indian muslims might be acting under siege (because you have seen the fate these right wing hindu national forces had in the last national elections). Ofcourse, non-muslim civil society of India expects them to speak out; It helps to maintain out sanity. I mean, I can understand that it puts an extra pressure on a normal muslim to keep assuring the rest of folks that don’t count us with them, we condemn them. It might be irritating at times, our say most of the times. But, who said that the situations faced by world and the Islamic world are simple.

  22. sojournertruths

    @Punjabi – “And if they are denied, then the tolerance offered them is conditional and really quite valueless because it is not anchored on principle. Tomorrow you could change the conditions required to “earn” tolerance.”
    My dear friend, Silence means agreement. And, let the conditions required to “earn” tolerance be similar for both the parties, to have a fair game.
    A principled man can also get tempted to defect seeing everybody else doing so.
    Well, I can understand how difficult it is to speak out in certain circumstances. When the state itself is promoting certain anamolies then, a normal person can’t do much except be quiet. Sad but true. Your point is well taken.
    Please feel free to comment on my blog. sojournertruths.wordpress.com

  23. Punjabi

    Silence does not mean agreement. You may interpret it to mean that, but then that’s your interpretation. It is not an unimpeachable truth.

    You cannot condemn a man because he is silent.

    but people do interpret and assume, and they do base their calculations on what they are able to observe, so if you are silent then you will be subject to whatever somebody else interprets your silence to mean.

    But i cannot condemn a man for what he chooses not to say. To do that would mean that you go from judging men by what they do, to what he does not do. I can’t accept that on principle because it is a violation of individual’s fundamental freedom of free choice.

    I’ll check out your blog.

  24. Gorki

    Punjabi:

    You make exceptionally good points and I admire your articulation; nuances and all.
    As a fellow American also agree that conditional tolerance (as you put it) goes against everything I like about my country.
    However European narrow mindedness though deplorable is not unexpected in the current environment. I think a part of the problem is our own national leaders still cynical support to the ruling elite in Saudi Arabia.
    For out of all the people in the Muslim World, it is the silence of the Saudi royals on issues such as interfaith understanding that is so stunning.

    There is no doubt that millions of ordinary Muslims are silent but they are not bigoted; yet their silence is nothing compared to that of the keepers of the faith. I will have no problem with United States condemning the Swiss vote but it has to come at the same time with calling the Saudi royals to open up Saudi Arabia too to allow members of the other faiths to enjoy the same rights the Saudi’s expect for fellow Muslims. And it has to come as a firm declaration like the Reagan “tear down the wall..” speech.

    America has long prided itself as a champion of human rights. We stood up to the Soviets when it was the strongest non Western power; yet I find the US reluctance to look the problem in the eyes rather strange, even shameful, all the more so since we continue to spent our blood and treasure and wage wars elsewhere, (sometimes against innocent bystanders like Iraq).

    Is our need for oil so overpowering that we can’t call a spade a spade? US calls itself the leader of the free World, its leadership has been missing in the true sense. What the Europeans are doing is wrong because two wrongs don’t make a right but I am afraid that when even the Swiss start sounding xenophobic we must seriously look for the problem.

    Some orthodox Muslims may not like it but can it be any worse than the response to the Danish Cartoons or the invasion of Iraq?
    Who knows may be the silent majority may even cheer such a change in policy. Hopefully over time, a constant unambigous diplomatic pressure calling for application of human rights for all and in ALL the places may bring about a raproachment and understanding like we have with the former communist bloc nations.

    Regards.

  25. Bloody Civilian

    the swiss have made a democratic decision. asma jehangir, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, felt she had to make her views on the decision known. as she has done about similar and worse laws and conditions in many other countries – democracies and dictatorships, including many muslim majority countries.

    it’s the same asma jehangir who was virtually begging the west not to support the dictator musharraf, and musharraf had no qualms about going ahead and throwing her into prison.

    are the saudi people being blamed here because they voted in a referendum on banning temples and churches being built in s.arabia? or are the saudi royals being held up as so-called ‘protectors of the faith’ just because they claim so? had they not made that claim i, for one, would have little problem with their gambling in spain and monte carlo, or even womanising in egypt, lebanon and elsewhere. but neither their claims nor their personal behaviour is an issue. the issue is what happens to those who are seen to be dissenting at all? rumours say that there are some who are dropped from helicopter over the empty quarter. and this is without going into what saudi children are taught at school, in the name of education. the parents were taught no different. so how many would know what’s wrong with their own education system? of the few who do, how many of them should be speaking out about it without fearing prison etc? despite all this, do we really know what the democratic decision would be about minority rights in saudi arabia, if ever there was such an opportunity?

    how many people were involved in attacking danish embassies? was that a result of a democratic process? which govt sanctioned it? which educated class of muslims, able to speak freely on any issue at all without risking prison or worse, failed to condemn the attacks?

    but, of course, if there is dictatorship it must be at least as much the people’s fault as the dictator’s. or so i’m told. so if a significant number of the world’s poor can succeed in their daily struggle with life itself, and then, somehow win in their fight against dictatorship, perhaps they can one day actually have a voice… of their own. at what point in this struggle will they become comparable in poverty to, say, the british working class or the american red necks? and how similar or different will be their views?

    the so-called educated classes amongst muslims, tiny minorities as they are, in countries (their own or in the West) where they are not likely to end up in prison or dead for speaking out, have amongst a noisy regressive element. but it does have a vocal liberal and much larger moderate element too. and that’s about all the picture is about.

    the minarets ban is no big deal. what is more concerning is to see freedom and liberal values coming down to being merely about comparison and competition (that too without any regard to democracy vs dictatorship, citizen vs terrorist, rich vs poor) rather than standards and taking an objective view of rights and wrongs.

  26. Gorki

    “or are the saudi royals being held up as so-called ‘protectors of the faith’ just because they claim so?”

    They are held up because they are directly responsible for obstructing progression of human rights and universal human values of tolerance for all. Also they have the power to make amends; complete and absolute power.

    Like Gorbachev.

    They are also held up because they are being a bad example for others who are now regressing backwards.
    The entire human race is a family; they are holding the caravan of progress for all.
    Anyway they are to be called to account, to be shamed, not to be shot.

    Regards.

  27. Milind Kher

    The most important point for Muslims to gain respect and acceptance is to separate themselves from the terrorists completely.

    No blanket statements like “Islam condemns terrorism” or “Islam is a religion of peace”.

    It is more imporatnt to name the people. Say that the Taliban have abandoned Islamic values. Say that there is no aspect of Osama Bin Laden that is Islamic except his lip profession. Muslim governments have to isolate the terrorists and eliminate them.

    Only then will common Muslims cease to suffer on account of the militant ones

  28. sojournertruths

    There is difference between “free choice” and “convenient choice”. If you keep silent when your non-muslim neighbour is being mistreated, then, you ought to remain silent when it happens to a muslim neighbour.
    Based on this analogy, you shouldn’t be criticizing swiss now; I mean if, silence is “free choice” for you.

    And, Yes men is judged by what they do; Look Prophet is respected for the deeds he did during his lifetime.

  29. sojournertruths

    Yes, I shouldn’t condemn a man who remains silent and I will not, but, i can’t respect him either.

    @Gorki – America has never been a champion of human rights as far as the world outside America is concerned. America’s foreign policy has been based on only one phrase, “America and its interests come first.” These interest were more economical than preserving human rights/democracy per se.
    And, I don’t condemn or hate America for that; It was their “free choice”. In an interdependent global market-driven economy you can’t afford to annoy key partners or potential ones. The way whole China oppression thing has disappeared from American agenda, because, America can’t ignore China. American leadership masquerades the American economical interests only; Principles are invariable, but, economical interests are variable. It is true with every state, except, only America claims to be a champion.

    So, I don’t expect America to intervene and act as savior of human rights. It is just like any other country on this planet and atleast people outside America should not consider it to intervene in a singular sense and fight for their causes alone. And, mind it that normal american is also fed up of this saviour thing; most of them don’t think that inavasion of Iraq had averted a major catastrophe on this planet.

    It is a problem faced by Islamic world and only they themselves can solve it. External intervention will only complicate the problem. It is pretty evident from what happened in Iraq; Saddam Husien might be oppressive, But, American intervention made a mess out of it. Now, American’s themselves dont know what to do with it.

    The only thing I want to say is that the change has to come from within Islamic states only. And, by that I don’t expect Prince of Arabia will change, but, we the people living in these states should bring this change. Atleast, we can start a small movement.

  30. Bloody Civilian

    gorki

    my point was that they are dictators lording over a pretty repressive dictatorship. they do not represent any kind of hope, at any level, for anyone. you might be aware that even at foreign universities, out of every 5 or 7 saudi students one is a member of mukhabarat. i’ve met many of these students. i’ve a few very good friends amongst them. they share some of their aspirations, frustrations and fears with me.

    how the west should deal with the dictatorship is a matter for the west to decide.

    reagan might think it was him, but gorbachev was not afraid of doing things unilaterally.. according to his own mind, for the good of his own country and people as he best understood it. as for afghanistan becoming his country’s undoing, nobody asked the afghan’s before reagan decided the entire purpose of their lives and death. and nobody bothered to include them or even think of them in the celebrations after the wall did come down.

  31. Gorki

    BC: I completely agree with your assessment and therefore cannot hold the people responsible for all that is done in their name by dictators. Also I agree with sojournertruths that all nations including America act in their best interest. It is exactly because of these two facts that I believe the US should lean much harder on the Saudi family that runs a country (named after a family!) as a private domain.
    Look how thw world is regressing; not only the Swiss vote, the French have been indulging in a thinly veiled xenophobia of their own by banning headscarfs in public; a major Australian politician is asking for a mortarium on Muslim immigration to Ausrtalia. These are all signs of a tit for tat bigotry that need to come to an end.
    The US has stood for open markets open liberal policies not only becaus it is the right thing to do but it is also a vital US (and Western) interest. It resolutely opposed communist dictatorships around the World for half a century because it threatened the Western ‘way of life’. Well I contend the rising xenophobia too is threatening our way of life now.
    To deal with it we now have to look at bigotry in the eye. As a first step it should call an end to this sort of behavior around the world, in Europe, in Asia in Australia and in Saudi Arabia. Just like it openly supported the dissidents in the Soviet Union it can take a stand to morally oppose repressive policies in Saudi Arabia, which it has so far called a ‘friend’ and yet has not called its policies towards minorities, religious and otherwise, to account. It is this failure to criticize a ‘friend’ for its domestic policies which is akin to
    ignoring a friend’s wife beating habit because it is ‘none of my business’.
    Once it calls Saudi Arabia on this it can also oppose the Western democracies’ regression.

    Regards.

  32. Natasha

    The ban just proves how ‘insecure’ the Swiss government is when it comes to Islam.What people (muslims and non-muslims) fail to realize is that it’s the ‘message’ that is important not structures.If the swiss think that they can stop the message of Islam being spread by banning minarates ,they are just fooling themselves.And if Muslims think that Islam is being endangered by banning of minarates , they are being insecure for no reason.Islam does not need minarates for spreading.in europe or any part of the world for that matter.The kaaba has no minarate.

  33. wsmith

    “As a first step it should call an end to this sort of behavior around the world, in Europe, in Asia in Australia and in Saudi Arabia”

    This is exactly the kind of cretinous babble that provokes things like a minaret ban in the first place. Are you seriously suggesting a moral equivalence between the ‘bigotry’ in Europe, Australia and Saudi Arabia?

    You know very well what the consequences of American opposition to repressive policies would be. the lefties would immediately talk of US imperialism and interest in saudi oil, while every mosque from mecca to melbourne would take this as a grave affront to Islam.

    So let us stop hoping for Big brother to come and solve our mess for us. It is the Islamic conference and indeed the entire muslim community that should stand up to Saudi for its stone age policies.

  34. wsmith

    @ Natasha, do you know what the Swiss government’s position has been on this issue? Do you know about swiss direct democracy and how absurd resolutions like this are even put to vote?

    I suggest you do a bit more research – you will see that the Swiss Government had nothing to do with this

  35. Milind Kher

    Actually speaking, the azaan should be recited only from the plinth of the mosque, and indeed, at the very beginning there were no minarets.

    However, by banning minarets the Swiss are wanting to ban what is seen as a symbol of Islam, and hence express their hostility.

    If there are issues in France, Switzerland and Australia as well, the Ummah needs to ask itself why. It did not happen for centiries, why now?

  36. Natasha

    Muslims who are suffering with such kinds of discrimination are not responsible for the actions of those who’ve maligned Islam.But the whole community will have to pay the price for the actions of some terrorists who claim to be the ‘soldiers of Islam’.That’s how it is.Life’s not fair.

  37. Natasha

    Smith – perception is what matters in issues like these.

  38. Milind Kher

    There is only one way. Get the terrorists declared as apostates. Then execute them under their own interpretation of Sharia for apostacy.

    If leaders and mullahs can have the courage to do this, the cause of Islam will be served eminently.

  39. Gorki

    Dear wsmith:

    “You know very well what the consequences of American opposition to repressive policies would be. the lefties would immediately talk of US imperialism and interest in saudi oil, while every mosque from mecca to melbourne would take this as a grave affront to Islam.”

    Are you really this naive?
    And what do you think the ‘lefties’ talk about now? Ditto for every mosque from mecca to melborne? 😉

    It is such selective ‘fear’ of calling a spade a spade on legitimate issues that has led to the kind of xenophobia against Muslims. The Western governments may not be speaking but its people now seem to be sending a message nevertheless: ‘not in my backyard’ and it is the wrong message.

    “It is the Islamic conference and indeed the entire muslim community that should stand up to Saudi for its stone age policies”

    Again, did you read BC’s post about repressive dictatorships and how they control the people? who should stand up? By the same logic US and the West should not have opposed the communists either.

    Regards.

  40. Gorki

    “This is exactly the kind of cretinous babble that provokes things like a minaret ban in the first place”

    And Oh, BTW,
    sorry for provoking the minaret ban. The Swiss must have been reading my mind because I can assure you I was’t indulging in this babble in the run up to the Swiss vote.😉
    Neither was anyone else that I know of.
    Regards.

  41. Natasha

    Milind,

    There are sectarian differences and that is why you see these leeches blowing up majids and respectable maulanas who are against them.

  42. wsmith

    Sarcasm doesn’t really address the point Gorki.

    I was just totally amazed at how a discussion about the Swiss minaret ban suddenly turned into a debate on the how the west deals with dictatorships. These connection between these issues is very very tenuous.

    The question that needs to be asked (and this is never asked enough) is why suddenly across the world there is this selective xenophobia against the muslims. Why now? Is it everyone ganging up against the poor muslims, as the mullahs are saying? The problem with xenophobia as an answer is that it is an easy answer, and you can simply move along to the next country that enforces such a ban, to call them xenophobic.

    Who is really xenophobic though? The immigrant (often muslim) communities that often choose not to integrate? Those who think that the western societies are decadent, yet still live and work in these societies?

    There is some need for serious introspection on all sides, but especially from the muslims. Self pity is never helpful.

    To put my thoughts in context, see my earlier comments where i tell you what i think of the vote in the first place.

    And if your respond, leave the sarcasm out please ? Thanks

  43. wsmith

    Natashka – perception is good, but fact is great.

    The fact remains that the Swiss Government opposed this ban, but was bound by the constitution to let the vote take place (what the courts decide, time will tell)

    By criticizing the Swiss Government, who are really on ‘your’ side, you run the risk of
    (a) looking foolish
    (b) playing into the hands of the right wingers

  44. Gorki

    Dear wsmith:

    “And if your respond, leave the sarcasm out please ? ”

    Fair enough, if you leave out creative adjectives like ‘cretinous babble’.😉
    I will respond later in the day to your mail since I am currently pressed for time.

    Regards.

  45. wsmith

    Dear Gorki:

    That’s the way i am. A little rough around the edges, but still a diamond.

  46. Milind Kher

    @Natasha,

    Each of us have a duty to preserve peace. The least that can be done at the local level even if it is not possible to fight the jihadis is to silently boycott them at the social level.

  47. vajra

    @wsmith

    A little rough around the edges, but still a diamond.

    Yeah, right.

    You’d be surprised what others think. Find out what cowpat means. That’s rough around the edges too.

  48. sojournertruths

    @Gorki nd @Wsmith-

    I completely agree with @wsmith that there is no connection between America not reprimanding Saudi Arabi and the resultant ban in swiss land.

    I mean I am fed up of this rhetoric around America taking action everywhere. Has the rest of the world came over to this planet as a guest to American invitation and they being the host have to put everything to order?

    And @BC saying that the people living in dictator land have to be ‘mum’ else be killed. Aren’t these people to be blamed, who are living as slaves and not doing anything about it. That too in an era, when, all countries had come out of their colonial pasts. Why not have a second round of independence struggle within these dictatorlands? I can empathise with these people but can’t understand the logic of being quiet. They are always eager to carry banners “Behead those who insult Islam” but, never criticize their our heads. Do you want to say that the silent muslim lot is the largest crowd of “hypocrites”?

    Yes, the change has to come from within; it has to be raised by muslims only. Why not have a constructive jihad against these dictator states first?

    @Wsmith – This so called “xenophobia” has become evident now because the overall tolerance level of people have gone down. Why the tolerance level has gone down, would be a topic of another blog or phd dessertion? It is because of “an identity crisis” (fear of loosing one’s own identity) and more visibility/better communication/more awareness about affairs(which is good by the way).
    People in general are afraid of extinction of their past and their culture; It becomes particularly threatening when migrants don’t integrate within the existing culture. Migrants strive to create their separate space; A space of their own past. This is particularly true with eastern migrants (mostly(probabilistically 90%), please bear with me); Cultural influences are far more deep in east than west. And, these migrants make a hole in the existing cultural fabric, instead, of becoming a nice integrated pattern within it. May be, the western states/people are not able to handle these migrants properly; Assertion goes that if these migrants haven’t been integrated well then its the fault of state/people as well (though 50% only).

    Please forgive me, if have used any harsh phrase; As that was never the intend.

  49. sojournertruths

    The following is true for every religion existing in this world.

    Religion is a tool to divide, therefore, you can’t rely on religion to unite us. Every religion teaches that there is only one god and that is the one mentioned by us, rest are piece of shit. Now, if I believe my religion, then, obviously I can’t believe yours and be a part of it.

    Here, only one thing can help which is the realisation that we as human’s are inter-dependent in so many ways other than our religious beliefs. This inter-dependence should be a strong enough reason to mutually respect each other and integrate within the rest of the society. If, I am a chinese practicing Budhism living in America, then, I should not consider America as a land to earn money only. I should forget China now; Not the Chinese culture which is part of me. And, be open to American culture and its way of life; Create symbiotic relationships with my fellow Americans and not with fellow Chinese Americans only. In the due course, my fellow Americans will become aware of chinese culture and Budhism also; I will become aware of their beliefs and culture. I will no more be a threat to them; I will be welcome in their space and so will be they.

    I know its never easy, but, migrants need to become a part of the existing culture. But, this is possible only when both the parties realise that they need to co-exist in a peaceful manner.

  50. Bloody Civilian

    @sojourner

    Why not have a second round of independence struggle within these dictatorlands?

    you obviously did not read what i said about asma jehangir being thrown into prison by musharraf. while she was the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

  51. Punjabi

    Religion unites. Have you seen how many people are united as hindus or muslims or jews or christians?

    the only people religion divides are those who are united by religion.

  52. vajra

    @Punjabi

    Didn’t get that, chief. Could you explain? 2:23 in the morning, make allowances, pliss.

  53. rex minor

    Interesting and informitive article from a swiss citizen! Most of the comments so far made about the subject represent your own perception of the swiss, the danes, the french and the religion of Islam. Here is something one should also consider:
    . The call for a stop to minarets in the German speaking Kantons is not an act of democracy as some one commented. It is against the constitution of Switzerland.
    . The swiss are provincial people and do have a clause in their Constitution to hold a referandum on any subject if the initiator can collect a described number of signatures from the residents for his proposal. Now they have the pudding and let us see how they are going to eat it.
    . The minarets built in switzerland are the symbol of immigrents of turkish descent who came over from the Balkans. Apart from maintaining their religion and culture, they are fully integrated citizens of switzerland. They speak the German language with the same disformed swiss accent as their other non- muslim fellow citizens.
    . The Europeans history tells us that the Europeans are the most xenophobic people known on this planet- nobody has told them about the Pushtoons. Europe was the centre of the two world wars, which caused almost the annhilation of the people in this continent and beyond. Not to forget the brutal murder of six million Jews.
    . In recent years there has been a rise of the so called right wing political Parties and the rebirth of xenophobia in most European countries. They report such occurances as racists and do not mention the religion of the victims, be it an indian, a vietnamese etc.. Any one having a muslim religion invokes a variety of flowery names such as Islam, Islamist , radical Islamist, Jehadis and all other names that the entire Jewish community of American Journalists have identified for the muslims. Even the Indians and the Pakistanis are using these names now and proudly state the name of prize winning journalist such as Friedmann etc etc. This is in way an illusion, and strangely enough, if one would care to find the background of people linking Islam out of context with activities of individuals a strange pattern emerges. It does not matter if the muslim citizens is involved in a conflict of a harmless cultural nature or in fact a criminal nature the story comes out in the media about Islam. Poor poor Islam, people even forget that Islam is not a horse that every non-muslims gets hold of a cane and starts flogging it. For heavens sake Islam is a religion. and religions are usually sacred and they all have been and will always remain holy. It is the peoples’ own character which determines their acts in the Society. Mr Obama’s christian mentor and the Preacher was known to be the most radical in the US christian clergy. Ofcourse Mr Obama only abondoned him once this knowledge became public. I do not want to digress by talking about the the so called Evangelists of the US who were directing George W’s activities and decisions in the world. Does the media ever draw attention to the christian or the Jewish religion of the people who day in and day out are committing horible crimes including terrorist acts. The answer is Negative!
    What is that pattern I mentioned earlier, well here we are;
    .The right wing Dane and the right wing Dutch people involved in the defamation were mostly Jews. Suprised? Here is another one!
    . Mr Zarkosy and his foreign minister are of the Jewish descent. He is jumping up and down like a circus joker and simply behaving as in the past when he was the interior minister. He is personally involved in subjects affecting muslim citizens in France, such as Hajab, Burqah( in total few hundreds are seen in the country) and not to forget his aggressive resistance to Turkey joining the European Union, something which was agreed with Turkey long before Mr Zarkosy’s arrival. Are these the responsibilities of a French President? He believes they are. He goes to Algeria on a State visit and says he is not going to apologise for the brutalities committed by France during their occupation of Algeria. What was the response of the Algerian President? Nothing, nothing at all. If I were the Algerian President I would have cancelled all public activities and asked the Bonapart politely to return to Paris.
    . The foreign minister of Britain is of Jewish descent but to avoid a backlash against his religion publicly claims that he is an atheist. One cannot recommend such a course for muslim workers in Europe, particularly when they read Gods words in Quraan that ” Fear no one but me”
    .I can go on and go on and mention about the so called zionist Jews, the Zionist Christians and lately the Zionist muslims. This categorization has only emerged to exclude the innocents, somewhat similar to Hillary saying that good Talabans and the bad Talabans. I would personally prefer no name calling. If you mean Obama then say it and do not mention his religion. Who knows that he is a muslim, a jew or a christian? It is the deeds which matter and not the personal faith. I personally have no problem with people’s faith and even show extra respect when I meet a religious person and equally I would never blame the religion of a person if he is committing a crime.
    . In my opinion, one should not over-react to the Swiss experience. The muslims should go on saying prayers in their houses and without minarets.
    . The Swiss muslims could ofcourse ask the church authorities for permission to pray in the christian church on Friday. The muslims are not restricted to pray only in a mosque with a minaret.
    . With respect to the feelings of some I would not read too much about the restrictions in the holy city of Mecca and Madina. I also do not allow any visiting guest to enter my bedroom, similarly from the Prophet days non-muslims were not allowed in those cities. The current Saudi Govt is innocent. That they were not allowing women to drive is their doing.
    . It is always difficult to predict for the future, and one of you even criticised my reference to an event in history about the downfall of the Roman Empire, but I can see it as clearly as the daylight that the power of the US and the West is on the decline, not only due to demographics but so called liberalising of the Society. How come therefore, that despite the Swiss, the Germans, the Dutch and other European criticism of muslims more amd more people in these countries are converting to Islam and more and more churches are seen empty and are now being converted to digs and restaurants. Let us now take a deep breadth and remind ourselves of the “spread of Islam” in history. In contrary to the analogy of famous historians, we see the military intrusions
    into the Indian sub-continent was to destroy the worship practices and the culture of the inhabitants. They did not invade other nations to cionquer and retain their territory. There stay later in India was the result of understanding the basic hindu and sikh culture which completely surprised the Turkish Moghuls to discover the inner spirtual power of the people in India. Similarly, the invading muslim armies entry into the kingdoms of Spain and France was to eliminate the rule of so called christian kings and so called Barons etc. whose rule over the normal peasents was not palatable for the arabians. I see a similar scenario emerging in next century in the form of an invasion of the European main land by the muslim armies, not to conquer the land but to destroy it. During their previous invasion they did not cross over the river loir probably because of the somewhat colder weather or some other reason. Returning to the minarets. the Turkish military in Budapest did not construct any mosques with minarets. They simply converted the christian churches into mosques and when they departed at the orders of the Sultan, the Budapest people easily converted the mosques back into churches. At present, for sensitivity reason the German Church authorities are not allowing the sale or lease of empty church buildings to muslims but instead are allowing them for digs or restaurants. I guess similarly the right wing in Switzerland would not allow this method. I realize that it is sad and upsetting for the Europeans to see their cities being invaded by the people of different colours and different cultures. Does any one believe that the people in England are happy with the migrant community from ex colonies who have performed all the work necessary to support the economy of a country, but equally opened up curry restaurants similar to that in Lahore, Dehli and Bombay. I am not prejudiced nor a racist but equally would not like Switzerland with a hoad of minarets, nor I would like women born in Europe masqurading with Burqahs in European cities not realising that the european women have suffered a lot before they were able to get some respect, dignity and a status of a human being in the men’s world. The women were allowed the voting rights in Switzerland in seventies, much after they were allowed in India or Pakistan. The muslims and the Jews as well as other non christians citizens of Europe are slowly but steadily increasing their influence within the European institutions and sooner or later the indigenous anglo saxons, the germanic, the liberrians and the rest of the races are going to become history, in my opinion, on account of their liberal policies. The United States of Europe will more or less become similar to that of the United States of America. Until, this happens the wise people will keep on living with patience with or without minarets. On a psositive note I would not hesitate to mention that I have lived very comfortably with Swiss people, understood their culture and found them no different than the Pushtoons, with the exception that they take more time to become neighbourly and even more time to become ones friend. This is opposite to the perception of Europeans about the Americans who become very neighbourly and friendly on day one of knowing you and then one discovers that they are not your friend at all even after several years of acquintance.

  54. Bloody Civilian

    rex minor

    i’m afraid i haven’t read your post beyond the first point.. yet. i said democratic in the sense of it being a majority (57%) decision. democratic, in the numerical sense, does not necessarily mean legal or constitutional. it’s not an overwhelming but a clear majority. and a direct rather than representative (eg parliamentary) majority.

  55. sojournertruths

    @BC – I have read about Asma Jehangir case and still feel that Pakistani civil society is strong enough to avoid deviation from democracy in future. But, the Pakistani state has been derailed so many times that it’s very difficult to predict its progress. Still, it is the most strongest muslim state with rich culture.

  56. This is simply a violation of basic human rights – the freedom of faith. Following upon this logic, the next thing would be to stop Muslims from building mosques or what? The Swiss legislation is clearly a mark of Islamophobia with nothing to validate or justify such a step. What remains to be seen is the role EU plays in the whole affair which, so far, appears to be rather muted over it.

  57. Gorki

    Dear wsmith and sojournertruths: You both said the following:
    1. I was just totally amazed at how a discussion about the Swiss minaret ban suddenly turned into a debate on the how the west deals with dictatorships. These connection between these issues is very very tenuous. (Wsmith December 3, 2009 at 9:26 pm)
    2. I completely agree with @wsmith that there is no connection between America not reprimanding Saudi Arabi and the resultant ban in swiss land. (sojournertruths December 3, 2009 at 10:10 pm)

    So let me remind you gentlemen how and who brought in this connection of a Western democracy’s ban on minarets and the dictatorship (Saudi Arabia)
    1. Do muslims feel they belong to the respective countries they have made their homes? Almost all muslims feel that they belong to Saudi Abrabia the land of Allah and a new world order around Islam has to be resurrected (sojournertruths December 2, 2009 at 3:56 pm)
    2. Yet, when the Saudis and indeed most muslim (at least arab muslim) countries prohibit the construction of churches and temples in their lands, is it not bigotry and hate mongering? (Wsmith December 2, 2009 at 5:41 pm)

    There is your connection between the Western democracy’s ban and SA!
    The only question that remains to be answered is how America comes into the picture. I will get to it in a minute. In the meantime, indulge me a little bit if I may digress, for a small side business because wsmith also wrote:

    “It is the Islamic conference and indeed the entire Muslim community that should stand up to Saudi for its Stone Age policies”
    in effect saying that others should stay away from lecturing the Muslim community. Fair enough; but that was perhaps because he had changed his mind because before that he had also written the following:

    “…but it would be nice to hear a muslim talk about this as well. Self pity is ridiculous when you are the perpetrators of the same alleged crime in your own countries.”

    Sounds suspiciously like lecturing about what good Muslims should do in their own countries!! Or maybe he means that it is OK for him to lecture but not OK for a serious world leader to say the same things to Saudis!
    This once, I am not trying to be funny or sarcastic. You see, it is hard to have a serious debate when one takes positions all over the place.
    Continued…

  58. Gorki

    Anyway back to America and its role.
    “Has the rest of the world come over to this planet as a guest to American invitation and they being the host have to put everything to order?” asked an exasperated sojournertruths.
    Fair question, let me share a small anecdote before I answer it.

    In early 1945 Roosevelt died and his VP Truman suddenly found himself a president just in time for the Potsdam conference. He confided in one of his aides that he felt a little unsure of himself dealing with World leaders like Stalin and Churchill. His aide reassured him that he will be fine. “Remember Mr. President, no matter which seat you sit on around the table; that will automatically become the head of the table once you occupy it”.

    It may be sad but it seems at least from the vantage point of the western democracies whose own heydays were long over, this fact is still true more than half a century later.
    America pulled out Europe’s bacon from the fire twice (thrice if you count the cold war) in the last century. The Europeans had earlier launched the League of Nations which fizzled out without America. Compared to it, even the flawed UN, with American leadership seems a major success story. Europe dithered for years in last Yugoslavian war till America finally showed up to stop the carnage. For half a century, American power kept the Europeans safe from communism and from themselves (after two failed attempts at self immolation) long enough for them to start thinking of a European Union.

    Like it or not, America is one nation that provides a lead to Western democracies and without it there is no NATO, no CENTO no World Bank no UN Security council seats for the West; in effect there is no Western bloc. The last time European lions undertook a serious joint enterprise without US was the 1956 invasion of Suez; and notice how it ended. Thus if there is to be a dialogue with anyone on the behalf of the West, it has to be by America or else it would fail.

    Now the last question; why should US talk to Saudis if the Europeans are acting funny?
    Lack of assimilation is one issue but it is nothing new; why now? as wsmith asked.
    The reason the west is so concerned now is stated in the title of this post ‘My compatriots’ vote to ban minarets is fuelled by fear’.
    Yes, it is fear.

    You both have already made the connection with SA as mentioned above. Indeed rightly or wrongly, many believe Saudi Arabia is a lynch pin of the current wave of terrorism.
    The following is paragraphs are reproduced from the 2005 United States Government Accounting Office report to its senate outlining the reported support for terrorism by Saudi sources:

    “In July 2005, a Treasury official testified before Congress that Saudi Arabia-based and – funded organizations remain a key source for the promotion of ideologies used by terrorists and violent extremists around the world to justify their agenda. In addition, according to State’s 2005 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Saudi donors and unregulated charities have been a major source of financing to extremist and terrorist groups over the past 25 years. In July 2003, a former State Department official testified before Congress that a Saudi-based charity, al Haramain Islamic Foundation, had allegedly financed assistance to the Egyptian terrorist group Gamma al Islamia. In May 2004, the same former State official also testified that some half dozen of the most visible charities, including two of Saudi Arabia’s largest, the International Islamic Relief Organization and the World Muslim League, have been linked to supporting Islamic terrorist organizations globally. In addition, a former Treasury official identified Wa’el Hamza Julaidan as a senior figure in the Saudi charitable community who provided financial and other support to several terrorist groups affiliated with al Qaeda operating primarily in the Balkans. Moreover, the 9/11 Commission report states that al Qaeda raised money in Saudi Arabia directly from individuals and through charities”.

    There are hundreds such reported papers available for anyone with a little time and inclination on their hands. The reports may be right or all fabricated; that is not as important as the fact that such reports continue to be read by, and continue to scare the daylights out of those making the policies in the West.
    It is for these reasons that I reiterate, the West; through its champion the USA, needs to hold a dialogue and even pressure if necessary, to address such issues responsibly with the Saudi Arabian dictators.

    Regards.

  59. Hayyer

    Natasha:
    The ban just proves how ‘insecure’ the Swiss government is when it comes to Islam.What people (muslims and non-muslims) fail to realize is that it’s the ‘message’ that is important not structures.If the swiss think that they can stop the message of Islam being spread by banning minarates ,they are just fooling themselves.And if Muslims think that Islam is being endangered by banning of minarates , they are being insecure for no reason.Islam does not need minarates for spreading.in europe or any part of the world for that matter.The kaaba has no minarate.

    That comment expressed many ideas and some confusion too. I am risking adding to the confusion below.
    Islam’s message in brief says is that there is one God and only Muhammad had the final take on him. The west, and the rest of Asia I suppose have no problem with the first part of the message; they do with the second.
    Your comment that the message will spread, minarets or not is loaded. It suggests a proselytizing mission. Your comment appears justify the fears bigots in the west express when they point to the views of Sheikh Omar (was it) in London.
    Minarets, depending upon the architect and the setting can be aesthetically pleasing, or not. Are they essential to Islam? I cannot comment on that except to say that mosques without minarets exist and are in a plurality even in Muslim majority areas.
    If Islamic experts agree that minarets are not essential then the Swiss ban cannot hold up the spread of the message if that is indeed the intention in setting up mosques. But such an intention would sit oddly with the view that Muslims in Europe or America just want quietly to practice their faith and have no proselytizing intent.
    It is no crime to proselytize. Christian missionaries do it all the time. Recently even Hindu missionaries have taken it up. But then the question of reciprocity arises, and that has been discussed to death.
    Religion should take advantage of the advances in science and technology. The faithful can be called to prayer by mass text messaging. This would leave the laggards to sleep in peace every morning. Housewives and Muslims in general would not celebrate Eid a day too soon, or fast an unnecessary length of time with the exact knowledge astronomers give us of the phases of the moon.
    Here we need to distinguish, as with the minarets, between love of faith and love of tradition. Sikhs in Canada who wanted to eat at the communal gurdwara meal sitting at a table were told that they were violating the faith by not sitting on the ground. It did no good to argue before the illiterate jathedars of Amritsar that the floors were too cold in Canada and the clothing too cumbersome to easily permit such a practice.
    Given an opportunity the religious heads would no doubt prescribe that the dirt and muck that surrounds religious practices in South Asia is essential to the faith.

  60. Milind Kher

    The rapid spread of Islam will be something very positive if the average Muslim is more educated and tolerant than his Non Muslim counterpart and on the whole brings much more development to the table.

    He will then lead by example and Islam will be the most sought after religion.

    If all the above happens, would anybody want to hurt Islam?

    Feel free to react whichever way you want. Only, let us be logical about how we frame our argument

  61. rex minor

    Bloody Civilian,
    Sorry, but even the vote count did not have a majority in Switzerland! OR DID I MISS IT? In any case let us take their vote on minarets on the face value. Like some one suggested the religious people, muslims and others should have a second look at their traditions and at a communal level and in my view also consider the views of the majority in their deliberations. The Swiss are isolated in Europe and currently under extreme pressure from the US and the European Community. They usually spend years discussing minor projects like a “Bus Stop” on the highway and then decide against the idea. One should also be aware that the right wing swiss citizens include Tunisian born immigrants!!

  62. Wsmith

    Gorki, thanks for your detailed response:

    I said:

    “I was just totally amazed at how a discussion about the Swiss minaret ban suddenly turned into a debate on the how the west deals with dictatorships. These connection between these issues is very very tenuous. (Wsmith December 3, 2009 at 9:26 pm)”

    To which you quoted me once again:
    “Yet, when the Saudis and indeed most muslim (at least arab muslim) countries prohibit the construction of churches and temples in their lands, is it not bigotry and hate mongering? (Wsmith December 2, 2009 at 5:41 pm) ”

    And said added, yourself:
    There is your connection between the Western democracy’s ban and SA!

    Please note that I for the connection between:
    (a) how the west deals with dictatorships
    and not, like you have answered
    (b) western democracy’s ban and Saudi Arabia

    Surely you will agree that these are two questions. I would appreciate an answer to the question i asked, thanks.

    Further, you bring up alleged inconsistencies in what i said. The essence of what i said was:
    My addition in {} to put the statement in context – let me know if you disagree

    Statement 1 (in the order in which you quote me)
    The muslim community should stand up to the oppression in saudi arabia { and the west shouldn’t be the ones to rap saudi knuckles)

    Statement 2
    It would be nice to hear the muslim community talk about this (saudi repression) as well. {Instead of the muslims feeling sorry for themselves}

    So what i am saying is that the west shouldn’t be telling the muslims how to run their own countries, but it would be nice for the muslims to introspect.

    I dont see a contradction here. Do you?

  63. Bloody Civilian

    @rex minor

    i am responding to the first two lines of your post only. surely, you meant to address the rest of it to all who might care to read it and not specifically to me since none of it has any particular relevance to anything i have had to say.

    my response to the relevant part: it was the majority of the people asked and bothering to answer. that’s good enough for me.

  64. Milind Kher

    Unfortunately, the Muslims are not very likely to introspect.

    If only they abided by the hadith “Like for your brother what you like for yourself”, many ills would have been avoided.

  65. rex minor

    “Logic is not truth”, therefore, I personally do not search for logic in religions. All the so called three Ibrahim religions have the same base, the Jews refused to accept Jesus as a Prophet of God and the christians and Jews refused to accept Mohammad as the prophet of God. If the followers of now three separate religions( not to confuse it further with the so called offshoots) were to compare the texts in their respective holy books they would note the same message expressed in different languages. How many of the so called literate people have studied other religions beyond their own assigned to them at birth? People do not convert their religions by looking at examples but do so for their own spirtual peace. People who were given asylum by the Brits should have also been given some sort of orientation of the western world. Mr Hamza’s behaviour might be a norm in the streets of middle east, but for the city of London it was too much!

  66. keshto

    Will Saudi Arabia allow construction of Cathedrals to challenge Swiss ban on minarets?

  67. Akash

    “While minarets have nothing to do with religion, the Swiss have shown ignorance of the worst kind to legislate on this issue so shamelessly…”

    really, YLH? really?

    While the Swiss are being a bit silly about banning minarets, I think that they are sending a tough message out. It’s an intelligent way of saying that “Don’t even start the debate about burka. If we can ban the minarets, we can..etc. etc….”

    People living in glass houses should not …

  68. Milind Kher

    Burqa? Ban the damned thing from every corner of the globe. It is a blatant symbol of gender bias and medieval barbarism.

    It has nothing to do with Islam, irrespective of what the bigoted mullahs may rave and rant.

  69. Bloody Civilian

    @MK

    hasn’t the current head of al-azhar banned it on campus and al-azhar run/affiliated schools?

  70. Milind Kher

    @BC,

    He has, and is facing a major legal battle over it.

    If the energies of the Ummah are dissipated in nonsense like this, how will they focus on scientific and economic development?

    When will the community learn?

  71. Milind Kher

    @BC,

    What further worries me is that other people discuss global warming, ecosystems, space research, nuclear power and many more important contemporary concerns.

    Whereas

    The Ummah is still concerned with beards and burqas. When will they come out of it?

  72. Hasan

    Muslims come out in numbers to ban minarets in Walsall, UK
    http://www.expressandstar.com/2009/12/04/mosque-plan-for-town-is-thrown-out/

    “Resident Zia-ul-Haq, aged 56, of Hart Street, said: “It is a victory for the people, …”

    “Imam Saeed, 65, from the Aisha Mosque and Islamic Centre, added: “We are happy the right decision has been made. …”

    Amazing how many Muslims turned out to oppose this mosque but there isn’t a single white man in sight. Normally its the other way round.

    expressandstar.com/2009/12/04/mosque-plan-for-town-is-thrown-out/

  73. wsmith

    Am i to expect a response to my last comment Gorki or have we moved on?

  74. Gorki

    wmsmith:

    My post and your response are there for every one to see. People can draw their own conclusions.

    The issue is the double standards of Saudis regarding their own practice and their expectations of others. It is a specific issue (and you have mentioned in your own post.)
    No one is trying to make it into a broad Western democracies versus a dictatorship issue as you later implied.
    My point is that if you can bring this specific issue up for discussion in a very public forum, so should the Amercian president.
    I believe his words will get more attention.

    The above is post\counterpost is a minor issue anyway; that is why I split my response in two different posts in the first place because. The real issue is American leadership of the Western bloc and the need for it to engage SA rulers on the behalf of the West and nudge them to move into the 21st century.
    If we can find more flexibility and a small reciprocity here and there, it makes liberals forces stronger and I believe it will make Europeans less fearful and perhaps more open minded again, as they have been in the past.

    Regards.

  75. Hasan

    When Is Banning a Mosque Not Islamophobic?
    http://www.spittoon.org/archives/4076

  76. rex minor

    How do you ban Burqa in Kabul? An enthusiastic King had to abondon his throne and go into exile on account of such an ordinance. Mullah Ummar would be able to walk into Kabul within twenty four hours if such an order is issued now by KARZAI. The women wear Burqas in the sub-continent so that they are not molested by the men! One has to think of some sort of restriction on men to spare the women in cities. With regard to the woman you find in this medieval dress on the streets of London and Paris, how do you convince these women that they should not exercise their human rights in a free society. On minarets, my advise to the duty conscious muslims would be to construct their mosques similar to the christian churches and better still ask for the permission to say prayers in the churches. The Turks did it in Hungary and one can read the Quraan verses within and outside the churches in an Italian town. Mind you the King was fond of the progressive arabic language and wanted the arabic translation of some bible verses?? This way the christians and the Jews could also become part of the UMMAH!! Any objection or suggestion for solving Burqa crisis. We should not forget that Mr Zarkosi is only upset about the Burqa clad women in Paris, most of whom are weekend shoppers from the Emirates and only a few from the King’s residence in Paris.

  77. just saying ‘hi’!