Sunday, November 29, 2009

Swiss Vote on Banning Islamic Minarets

The Swiss go to the polls today to vote on a referendum designed to halt the construction of Islamic minarets--the architectural towers, familiar in Muslim countries--which symbolize Islamic religious presence and are used to broadcast the "call to prayer"--the lyrical wail which is heard through the Islamic world each day.  

Switzerland has a history of non-involvement in European conflicts, and has maintained its reputation as a sort of island of neutrality in a sea of dispute and difference. This was accompanied by a cultural homogeneity--a sort of German/French/Italian hybridized model--designed to preserve a sense of its unique character, dignified and transparent. 

With the increasing portability of populations around the world, European nations have seen their respective national character and historical traditions challenged by huge influxes of African, Asian and Middle-Eastern people migrating North and West. Concerns have been raised in these countries about the threatened continuity of political, cultural and religious institutions posed by the radically different foreign paradigms. 

The official Swiss government position has held that bans against religious symbols (like churches) could have a damaging effect on Switzerland's reputation as an "open, tolerant and secure" place for the tourism and banking industries. Advocates of religious freedom and tolerance have decried the referendum as an example of irrational reactionary nationalism, racism, hatred and fear of the unknown. 

The history of the conflict between Islamic expansion and the West has been anything but peaceful. Spain was the cultural battleground between Islamic and Christian religions for hundreds of years. Both Christianity and Islam--in their purest expression--call for an integration between religious and political life which comes into direct conflict with principles of parliamentary democracy, individual freedoms, and the separation of church and state since the Enlightenment. 

For good or ill, the legacy of organized religion in the modern world has been largely one of intolerance: Intolerance of differing ways of life, intolerance of competing views of ethics and behavior, and of opposing religious practice and concepts. Western democracies would like to believe that religious tolerance, like political pluralism, is simply a matter of learning to be more tolerant.  

But if by tolerance we mean allowing harmful or dogmatic factions to dictate and overwhelm existing institutions and practice, then perhaps we need new definitions of tolerance. Islamic dogma contains several tenets which are anathema to so-called democratic, "free societies." I put "free" in quotes because, from an Islamic point of view, freedom to violate Islamic doctrine constitutes a deeply offensive liberality, which it considers intolerable. 

Islam, as it is practiced, is not compatible with Western democratic principles. The subjugation of women, and the insistence upon theocratic integration into all aspects of daily life, is in direct conflict with the separation of church and state, and the principle of equality which guides so much Western thought. 

This is not to say that Christianity, which continues to have a strong influence in the West, is an unalloyed good. On the contrary. Free societies still must resist religious dogma, in whatever form it presents itself.

But Islam doesn't have historical roots in Europe. For the Western democracies to entertain the notion that a growing Islamic presence is a harmless phenomena is indeed naive. Can Switzerland afford to allow Islam to establish a strong foothold, with the construction of huge mosques, with overarching towers? Is traditional Islamic practice compatible with a free society? Can Islam "co-exist" peacefully with other (Western) religions?  

If I were a Swiss citizen, I would be inclined to regard Islamic infiltration with skeptical caution. How far along the road to idealistic "tolerance" can a Western society go, before it relinquishes its freedom? To put the question another way, is an historically Christian nation justified in resisting the incursion of aggressive, expanding Islamic communities in its midst?   


Kirby Olson said...

Protestantism since Luther calls for Two Kingdoms. This means exactly that government and religion are separate. Luther for instance put marriage into the category of a state-controlled enterprise. While the Catholics think of it as a sacrament.

Bernard Lewis says the great distinction between Islam and Christianity is that Christianity has a two kingdoms concept, while Islam doesn't.

Marxism, also, allows for no separation between their messianic mess, and the state.

You are a Protestant without realizing it, dudeson, and in posts like this one, sound just a tad Republican. I think you actually cross the line into the Republican side of things when you touch upon integration of immigrants.

I wish Mike Huckabee or someone who's going to run in 2012 would look at your blog, and think about how to pull people like you across into our camp. Ha ha.

Curtis Faville said...

As I'm sure you deduce, Kirb, I'm not fronting for Christianity, or pointless "pluralism"--but trying to defend the notion of historical continuity. Christian nations may have problems, of their own making--but at least they possess--they "own"--these traditions.

Allowing Islam to take over your country is tolerance taken to an extreme. For good or ill, it is my belief that Islam, whatever its good aspects, does indeed want to take over the lives of its adherents, indeed wishes to take over the whole world. If I believed that this were a good prospect, I'd probably support the growth of Islam. But clearly I don't.

I could never be a Catholic, just as I could never be a Muslim. I'm a skeptical, pragmatic humanist, a postion incompatible with all dogmatic religious tendencies.

Have you read Rumi? What do you think of him?

Kirby Olson said...

I have read Rumi. I think not much.

Is there a separation between personal and public in Islam? I think not. Also, none in Marxism.

The personal is political.

Curtis Faville said...

I'm not Swiss, and hence this is a purely speculative matter for me.

However, I think it's dangerous for a historically Christian country, to allow itself to be overwhelmed by an exploding population of ethnic foreigners, most of whom subscribe to a vastly different view of life and conduct. I see it as a recipe for conflict, to say the least.

This new "takeover" by tacit invasion is a real threat to "civilized" countries around the world. How do you preserve your way of life when you're being buried under a stampede of aliens?

J said...

you uphold something like a Universal bill of rights (see AC Grayling on this--not my fave filosophe, but insightful), and enforce way or another. You don't play the endless religious poker game--"catholics, or baptists are better than muslims" etc. I agree muslimification is an issue--but I suspect many muslim people think christianization is a problem (and has been for centuries).

And you uphold the First Amendment, however trite or non-poetic to the hepcats o' poesy.

jh said...

there's a huge mosque with minaret in rome
il papa seems to like it

the sswiss are willing to reserve space for islamic money in their banks but that's it?

anyone who loves books is essentially catholic


Ed Baker said...

well the ban on building anymore mosques in Swizzerlan PASSED w

57 % of the votes voted which is to say it passed by
57% of the 15 % of the eligible voters who voted.


I am gonna "vote" with my wallette;

I shall buy no more Swiss Cheese ever...
and never again deposit any of my vast Green-backs under-the-table profits from the huge sales of my books and art in one of them tax-free accounts in Bern Bank, Ltd...

besides, the Swiss banks cut a deal with The USA to report what-all is of Americans deposited in their banks.

so much for "trust"

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

The Wise Old Man

Do you not see, said the wise old man,
how our world has so changed?
How the forests fall back,
the lack of the rains?
Don’t you see all these others now in our land,
how different who comes and who goes?
How the wild herds have turned into people?

Do you not see, said the wise old man,
how different what flies and what grows,
who now makes the rules,
decides what shall live and what die?
How some eat and others do not?
How what once owned by one
now another has got?

Your message is clear, old man. I hear.
But of which century do you speak?

Copyright 2008 - HARDWOOD-77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

Published by Yank Your Chain Press
Dedicated to the proposition that poetry, like prayers, should be free.

Kirby Olson said...

57.5 % voted to ban minarets. There are only four in Switzerland at present. Does it mean the existing four must be razed?