The Swiss Have Voted Against Muslims

By Tariq Ramadan
The Guardian, November 29, 2009


Edited by Andy Ross

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.

AR  Switzerland has a tradition of referendums and many of its people like its traditional social environment. The reaction against alien protuberances thrust into the scenery is no more shocking than a similar reaction against, say, concrete tower blocks. Minarets in Europe have nothing to do with spiritual beliefs and everything to do with impressing people of other persuasions.

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.

AR  Until we can debate such controversial connections openly and critically, and see real attempts by Muslims to modernize and reform the more primitive aspects of their faith, ordinary citizens will be quite right to refuse to embrace that presence.

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.

AR  Where is the basis for trust? Trust must be earned through honorable dealings, not regularly affronted by outrageous violence, intolerable extremism, arrogant denials of free speech, repulsive gender discrimination, inhuman forced marriage, and other insults to reasonable citizens.

I have been repeating for years to Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and proactive within their respective western societies.

AR  To become more visible as Muslims is precisely the wrong strategy. To become active and proactive as fellow citizens with shared goals and projects is the right way to go. We should have zero tolerance for people who wear their religion as a badge in a self-proclaimed war of identity politics.

They fail to assert that Islam is by now a Swiss and a European religion and that Muslim citizens are largely "integrated".

AR  Islam is emphatically not a Swiss or European religion. It is a faith created by Arabs for Arabs to spread the message of monotheism. It is also a faith that has long outlived its best-before date. It is not "integrated" because many of its tenets bear no coherent or constructive relation to modern European social life.

Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, is professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University.

AR  Oxford University has only recently put behind it a dismaying history of hiring communist hacks during the cold war. Now it seems to be giving its stamp of approval to Islamic proselytizers.

Minarets Are Not Essential

By Taj Hargey
The Times, December 1, 2009


Edited by Andy Ross

Switzerland's referendum vote to ban minarets does not infringe the religious liberty of Swiss Muslims. There is no theological reason why houses of worship in the West have to incorporate such towers. European mosques should stop mindlessly mimicking Eastern design and create prayer halls that blend into the landscape.

Dr Taj Hargey is the chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford and the imam of the Summertown Islamic Congregation in Oxford.