Switzerland: Constitutional ban on the building of minarets
On the 29th November, 57.5% of Swiss voters approved a constitutional ban on the building of minarets in their country. The majority of the German cantons said ‘yes’ to the referendum except for the canton of Basel (51.6% against). In French-speaking Switzerland, the following cantons voted against the referendum: Geneva (with the highest percentage; 59.7% against), Vaud (53.1%) and Neuchâtel (50.8%). Fribourg, Jura and Valais voted in favor of the referendum.
These results are contrary to the 18th November survey carried out by SSR SRG-idée which showed that a majority of 53% would reject the ban while 37% said they approved and 10% were undecided.
On the 14th November, Friebourg representatives of the Catholic Church, the Federation of Protestant Churches and the Jewish Community opposed this popular initiative that originated from the Swiss Peoples Party and the Federal Democratic Union who joined to form a group called the “Egerkingen Committee”. In a statement delivered by Father Marc Donzé (Episcopal vicar of Fribourg, reverend Daniel de Roche (president of the Council of the Federation of Protestant Churches of Fribourg) and Claude Nordmann, (president of the Jewish Community of Fribourg) they declared: “Whether from a , Jewish , Christian or Muslim understanding every human being is a creature of God. Human dignity requires universal respect and tolerance. This is an essential element for religious coexistence in peace and freedom”.
For these religious organizations, the right to build mosques and minarets in Switzerland should not be dependent on reciprocity, that is, on the equal treatment of Christians and Jews in Muslim countries. “We will betray our principals and our values. Injustice must be denounced whether it happens here or in other countries. Answering injustice with further injustice would be a betrayal of Swiss values”
On the 18th November, the Swiss district of the society of Saint Pius X supported the initiative to ban the building of minarets, denouncing the “confusion maintained by certain Vatican II Council authorities between tolerating a person, whatever his religion and tolerating an ideology that is incompatible with Christian tradition.
“The Islamic doctrine cannot be accepted when you know what it is all about. How can one expect to condone the propagation of an ideology that encourages husbands to beat their wives, the “believer” to murder the “infidel”, a justice that uses body mutilation as punishment, and pushes to reject Jews and Christians?” declared in a statement, Father Henri Wuilloud , District Superior, Switzerland.
“The position taken by Swiss Bishops is so rigidly conform to Vatican Council II texts that it contradicts the traditional doctrine and apostolic mission of the Catholic Church to such a point (…) that it asks us to put on the same level He who exhorted to love our enemies and those who order to murder them” he affirmed. He then added “Considering the fact that Muslim authorities unanimously agree that a minaret is not an essential part of Islam, the argument put forward by the initiators stipulating that the building of minarets is not a breach of the fundamental right of freedom guaranteed in articles 15 of the Federal Constitution and 9 of the European Convention for the Rights of man, seems well-founded”. “Consequently, FSSPX Switzerland invites all persons of good will not to support the propagation of Islamic ideals and to vote “yes” to the minaret ban” concluded the statement.
On the 29th November, once the results of the referendum were published, the Swiss Bishops Conference released the following statement: the people’s decision represents an obstacle and a great challenge on the path of integration in dialogue and mutual respect. We apparently did not succeed to show the people that the prohibition of minarets does not contribute to a healthy coexistence between religions and cultures but, on the contrary, it deteriorates it. (…) The difficulties of coexistence between religions and cultures are not limited to Switzerland. Before the vote, catholic bishops reminded citizens that the prohibition of minarets would not help oppressed and persecuted Christians in Muslim countries, but rather would deteriorate the credibility of their commitment in those countries. Swiss bishops encourage all persons of good will to increase still more their present commitment to those Christians and to be by their side.”
The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches declared “The referendum result amounts to an attack on the fundamental values”. “It is inadmissible that the religious minority now have to be subject to unequal treatment.” “The universal validity of human rights, particularly the right to free exercise of belief, is an achievement that must not be abandoned”
“It’s regrettable”, said Daniel Bolomey, who is Amnesty International head in Switzerland “The general prohibition of the construction of minarets violates the right of Muslims in Switzerland to manifest their religion,” Amnesty said in a statement. “It can do lasting damage to their integration.”
Swiss Green Party is studying the possibility of lodging a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights as declared by Ueli Leuenberger, their leader. Upset by his fellow citizens’ decision, he added “It wasn’t a slap the Swiss Muslims got but a punch in the face”. (DICIn°207-19/12/09 – Sources : AFP/Apic/FSSPX)