68 Views

The Swiss: no longer neutral

Despite being pushed by the far-right SPP party, many of Switzerland’s political left also backed the ban on minarets. (Photo: Milo Baumgartner)

Despite being pushed by the far-right SPP party, many of Switzerland’s political left also backed the ban on minarets. (Photo: Milo Baumgartner)

Last week, the unexpected success of a Swiss referendum to ban the construction of minarets became Europe’s first legislative manifestation of anti-Islamic feeling.

The referendum, which was largely expected to have been voted down, came as a result of the petition instigated by the far-right populist Swiss People’s Party, a party already notorious for their campaign in 2007, which was denounced as racist by the UN after featuring a poster depicting a black sheep being kicked from the Swiss flag by white sheep, with the slogan “For more security”.

57% of voters backed the ban, and this in a country in which Islam is the largest minority religion, with Muslims apparently very well integrated in comparison to a number of other European countries. As a result, the ban will presumably create enmity between communities where previously it seems that there was little. This is a worrying example of far-right groups manipulating both people’s fears and the law in order to undermine community cohesion, particularly with regards to Islam.

Before going any further, perhaps it would be useful to highlight the current status of minarets in Switzerland. There are four. Among approximately 150 mosques. Clearly, they appear to be blotting out the sun in their prolificacy. While minarets, the towers traditionally used to call worshippers to prayer, are not necessary for Muslims to worship, they are a very tangible sign of Islam, and it seems that this is the point so expertly manipulated by the SPP. They claim that minarets are a political, rather than a religious symbol, and represent the Islamification which could eventually bring Sharia law to the country.

The emphasis that this ban does not prevent Muslims from worshipping diverts from the very real curbing of a form of religious expression, specifically imposed on only one community. This seems to send a sign that if Muslims must practice, they must do so out of sight.

The ban even seems to have struck a chord with some of the left in Switzerland, with the implications of Sharia, the honour killings, stonings, and forced marriages, being much emphasised, and leading prominent secularists and feminists to back the ban, attacking minarets as male power symbols.

It is worth noting that Switzerland’s system of plebiscitary democracy allows these single-issue referendums if enough signatures are collected on a petition, and this goes someway in explaining why this has happened. Such referendums are clearly constrictive to debate about the prominence of any religion in society, and reduce a dialogue about this difficult issue simply to ‘for’ or ‘against’. Of course, it is not fair or logical to deem everyone who voted to ban the minarets as an ‘Islamophobe’, as many may well have been opposed to overt religious symbols of any faith, yet one is constrained by the specifics of the petition. However, the answer does not lie in singling out one specific faith for restrictions.

Thus, the SPP has managed in emphasising the non-essential aspect of minarets to stir up fear for Islam in its extreme, predictably glossing over the attitudes of the majority of moderate Muslims who do not seek to impose Sharia law. It seems clear that for the SPP at least, the fight is not against just the minarets but against Islam in general, as a glance at some of their posters urging the ban will show.

Although this referendum result will have little effect on the actual worship of Muslims in Switzerland, it is undoubtedly divisive, and hardly conducive to the integration of Muslim communities. The result is also highly indicative of the increasingly fraught relationship with Islam in Europe, fuelled by the rise of a number of far-right parties across the continent, not least the Dutch “Party for Freedom’, who seek to ban the Qu’ran, and the BNP here in Britain. These parties are seeking to undermine any cohesion between diverse communities by playing upon fears of extreme Islamic belief, which in the whole, are not held by Muslims in Europe. By focusing specifically on the minarets, which currently have little presence in the country, the SPP have found a way to send a message to Muslims, while attempting to legitimise their tone by encouraging arguments of secularism and playing on the extreme fear of Sharia. The message seems to be, you may worship here, but only if we don’t hear about it. This referendum has only succeeded in reminding us of the ability of many of these far-right parties to manipulate democracy in order to single out specific groups.

One can only hope that this decision will be overturned in the European Court of Human Rights, and, if necessary, that a dialogue will ensue about the prominence of all overt religious symbols, regardless of the faith.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
291 views1
Campus News
291 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
25 views
Arts
25 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
30 views
Arts
30 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
83 views
Artist Focus
83 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
57 views
Interview
57 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
112 views
Arts
112 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
110 views
Arts
110 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
130 views
Arts
130 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
107 views
Artist Focus
107 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
88 views
Books
88 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
122 views
Science
122 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
176 views
News
176 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…

Why I’m Jewish AND I support BDS
Comment
168 views
Comment
168 views

Why I’m Jewish AND I support BDS

Sarah McIntosh - May 2, 2018

The idea of a land where my religious identity is welcomed and where I feel safe to be myself and live in peace is a beautiful idea…

Student research happening at Sussex
Features
145 views
Features
145 views

Student research happening at Sussex

Nikolaos Manesis - May 1, 2018

(Image source: Flickr, Pixabay, Wikipedia) Another academic year is coming to a close and with it, the last edition of The Badger. To celebrate our last science…

Sussex Festival cancelled
Campus News
210 views
Campus News
210 views

Sussex Festival cancelled

Jordan Wright - April 30, 2018

The Students’ Union have cancelled their highly anticipated end-of-term event Sussex Festival: Desert Island Disco, which was due to begin on Saturday May 12th. The Students’ Union…

Students’ Union President Gustafsson and Liberate the Debate respond to the cancelled event
Comment
229 views
Comment
229 views

Students’ Union President Gustafsson and Liberate the Debate respond to the cancelled event

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

These comment pieces represent the opinions of both the Students' Union and Liberate the Debate with regards to the  recent cancellation of the Society's freedom of speech…

Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood
Artist Focus
146 views
Artist Focus
146 views

Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood

Louisa Hunt - April 25, 2018

Rory Hinshelwood studies Zoology with Spanish at Sussex. His brand is called Poplar St., at the moment the brand sell embroidered high-quality t-shirts. Rory works mostly in graphics…

Artist Focus: Maayan Cohen
Artist Focus
105 views
Artist Focus
105 views

Artist Focus: Maayan Cohen

Emma Phillips - April 24, 2018

The Badger spoke with Sussex University’s Maayan Cohen about her creative workshop, ‘Bits and Pieces.’ Can you tell us a bit about Bits and Pieces- what’s the…

Voodoo enthralls at The Old Market – review
Arts
133 views
Arts
133 views

Voodoo enthralls at The Old Market – review

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - April 24, 2018

As part of South East Dance’s micro-festival, Undisciplined, Voodoo comes to being as a collaboration between South East Dance and Project O. Project O brings artists Alexandrina…

Arts
136 views

Trial & error: Sex, sass and foolishness through dance

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - April 24, 2018

For the concluding show of South East Dance’s micro-festival, Double Bill brings two short performances to The Old Market’s stage: Comebacks I thought of later by Eleanor…