Swiss anti-minaret campaign.
(photo credit: AP)
On Sunday, Swiss voters supported a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets in their country. Official results show more than 57 percent of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons - or provinces - voted in favor of the ban. Building more minarets - in addition to the four existing ones - was seen by many Swiss as a sign of Islamization of their free country. The government opposed the ban, saying it would harm Switzerland's image, particularly in the Muslim world.
Several points must be raised in relation to this issue:
1.Can Muslims blame the Swiss people for being afraid of Islamization in their country? No, especially while the entire world sees the inhumane applications of Islamic law (Shari'a) wherever it is implemented. It should come as no surprise that the Swiss people don't want a system that even today practices discrimination against women, gays and minorities in the name of religion. The vivid images of stoning women and hanging gays in the Muslim world should make any sane individual inclined not to allow such an intolerant system to grow in his country under the banner of freedom of religion.
2. The Swiss people who rejected building minarets may be sending a message that their tolerance did not change the Muslim world and is not reciprocated. For several decades Muslims have been allowed to build mosques in Europe, wear their traditional symbols such as the hijab, and preach Islam to non-Muslims. Despite such high levels of tolerance in the West, non-Muslims are not permitted to practice similar rights in several parts of the Islamic world. Preaching Christianity is criminalized in a number of Muslim countries. Furthermore, non-Muslims are not permitted to have their holy books or to build their religious temples in many Shari'a-controlled areas. This lack of reciprocity of Western tolerance will naturally make many Westerners feel that showing tolerance to Muslims is not effective.
3. It seems strange that Muslims would insist on building minarets for mosques in Switzerland while thousands of mosques exist inside the Muslim world without minarets. The minarets are seen by many as representing the superiority of Islam, especially when they are taller than the churches; this sheds some light on the hidden intentions of Muslims who insist on building minarets in the heart of Europe. It is important that Muslims in Switzerland explain why they insist on using such historical symbols of Muslim superiority when it is neither mentioned in the Koran nor considered vital to building a mosque.
4. It seems too hypocritical that Muslims demand minarets in Europe while many non-Muslims in the Muslim world are denied basic and fundamental religious rights.
The more important problem Muslims in Switzerland should address is the lack of basic religious rights for non-Muslim minorities, not these unnecessary minarets.
The writer is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri, who later became the second in command of al-Qaida. He is currently a senior fellow and chairman of the study of Islamic radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.