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Swiss minaret ban sparks heated German debate

DDP/The Local · 30 Nov 2009, 10:21

Published: 30 Nov 2009 09:07 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Nov 2009 10:21 GMT+01:00

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Signalling increased fears of the so-called “Islamification” of their country, Swiss citizens voted overwhelmingly to enact a constitutional ban on constructing minarets at mosques. The two right-wing parties that brought the issue to vote called the towers a symbol of Islam's supposedly political agenda.

Head of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD) Kenan Kolat told Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung that the decision was “very regrettable,” adding that basic rights such as religious freedom should not be allowed to come to popular vote.

“A minaret belongs to a mosque,” Kolat said.

But Wolfgang Bosbach, a conservative Christian Democrat heading the parliamentary committee on interior policy, said that the vote should be taken seriously. He told daily Hamburger Abendblatt on Monday that the vote reflects a widely held fear of Islam within German society – though he said German laws provided enough solutions for practical decisions about minaret construction.

“But there are spectacular plans for large structures, such as in Cologne’s Ehrenfeld district or in Duisburg-Marxloh, for which there is a lot of resistance simply because of the size,” he told the paper.

Bosbach added that is “possible that some of these large buildings were planned to signal how strong Islam has become in Germany.”

But Sebastian Edathy from the opposition Social Democrats told Berliner Zeitung that the majority vote was “very problematic,” adding that countries guaranteeing religious freedom must allow members of different faiths to build houses of worship.

Meanwhile Islamic scholar Katajun Amipur told daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that the referendum threatened to spark Islamophobia throughout Europe.

Story continues below…

“If this initiative triggers a dynamic in other European countries – and the danger is there – then the Muslims will have no place in Europe in the end,” she said.

The architect in charge of a controversial new Cologne mosque Paul Böhm called the decision “undemocratic” and “unintelligent.”

Germany currently has some 206 mosques with minarets. Another 120 are being planned or are already under construction.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:48 November 30, 2009 by So36
You know, I am just so tired of hearing this idiotic tit-for-tat logic. Who cares if oppressive, dictatorial Muslim countries allow churches to be built or not? The point is we don't want the West to apply Saudi Arabian standards towards religious minorities, so take your little red herring argument elsewhere.
09:57 November 30, 2009 by speedygonzales
Who is "we"? minority fascists. mostly people in west don't care if Muslims build something. Only crazy politicians heat debate about it and they mobilize fascist part of society.

Swiss people are xenophobic, they don't hate only Muslims, they hate everything what is not from Swiss. Small society is always good for crazy fascists who make public fear about their language and culture. Such fear is of course: fake. Beside it, Hitler didn't become federal PM in violent way, he was chosen by parliament. So, we can expect some new Hitler to become successful when we see that voters don't have education what is fascism and what is not, and when they blindly follow fascist politicians. Hitler made damage for Germany, and fascists will make damage for Europe with their stupid spread of hate.
10:51 November 30, 2009 by Nov302009
I guess Switzerland has the right to decide because it's their own country. Muslims should be happy that they have Mosques to pray because in KSA, for example, Christians do not have a single Church to practice their religion. In UAE there is but without a Cross and religious minorities do not view this as discrimination. We just accept because it's their country and its their rules that needed to be followed. So, what's wrong with applying similar Saudi Arabian standards? People just have to learn to accept that they cannot have everything like what they have in their motherland otherwise they can go back to their respective countries if they do not like where they are right now.
10:56 November 30, 2009 by latifpk
1) The Swiss can decide what they want in their own country.

Agreed. But thing can be handled in a much better way without hurting each others feelings. The whole world is in the process of internationalization. The sooner we learn to live with each other in a positive manner the better.

2) In the last 60 years, how many churches have been constructed in the muslim countries? Zero!!

I can't speak on behalf of other Muslim countries, but being a Pakistani I can tell you that there are thousands of Churches in Pakistan. We even have an official holiday on Christmas even though majority of population is Muslim. I miss not having a holiday on Eid while living in Europe.

3) In the last 60 years, how many mosques have been constructed in Europe? Thousands!!

Why is it a bad thing? Muslim migrants like all other migrants contribute a lot in economy and society. They work as hard as any natural born European, Christian or not. They cant change their religion only because they migrated. They need some place to pray. They need mosques.
12:06 November 30, 2009 by YankeeT
God doesn't care if you have a steeple spire or a cross or a minaret on the building where you worship. It's not a question of religious freedom.

The Swiss have a beautiful but tiny country and they have build the skylines of their choice.

Barns and silos/libraries/financial institutions/law enforcement and military/residential structures all convey something to visitors. A skyline is a recognizable symbol of a place and its population.

When Munich was rebuilt the population voted to keep the old look. No new building can be taller than the church steeples.

It is impolite to insist a host country change any part of their culture or traditions for the comfort or preferences of new comers. Integration is good manners.
12:12 November 30, 2009 by moistvelvet
Surely Swiss Muslims and German Muslims can choose their place of worship, isn't that the point? Idiots talk about Muslims as if they are a race, well despite not being a Christian I don't feel any less European. Koeln Dom dominates the sky line and looks pretty intimidating itself, if you care about religion that is, so I don't see anything wrong with a few minarets to even up the balance, supporters of Catholicism shouldn't be throwing stones in glass houses.
13:45 November 30, 2009 by HeyFrito500
"Well they did it first so we can too", is a ridiculous argument. The point should not be Islam versus Christanity or Islam versus the west, it should be about tolerance.

If a minaret is denied because of city codes that is a completely different case than banning them because they represent Islam. The ban is based on xenophobia and fear mongering and not on anything else.
14:00 November 30, 2009 by moistvelvet
"I don't see much hue and cry about the lack of bells being any sort of infringement on the practising of Christianity."

However church bells ringing at the un-godley hour of 6am on a Sunday does infringe on my practice of a good lay in, not exactly sure which would be worse :-)
14:24 November 30, 2009 by freechoice
Search Youtube....

Muslim Plans For Conquering Europe Succeeding.
14:31 November 30, 2009 by Fredfeldman
Good for the Swiss for recognizing that Islam is both a religion AND a political agenda.
14:34 November 30, 2009 by lecturenotes2009
why so lot of stupid people here? again, mosques are ok to be built. but minaret or the hig tower is not allowed. read the article before placing comments, dude..They do not ban mosque. only minaret

so, why it's hard to accept? the moslems can still have their own mosque built. i dont know, but i think without a minaret, it should be fine too, right?
14:43 November 30, 2009 by freechoice
you know, us & europeans sent soldiers to middle east...and other muslim countries..

because of lack of understanding create havoc and caused untold sufferings to the muslim people....

they left their home countries and migrated to us & europeans..

later settle down and created a community of their own...

have their own mosques...etc...and blend with the "christians" europeans..and americans..

so that both cultures can get to live closer for a better understanding among themselves?

doesn't God works in mysterious ways? :)
15:04 November 30, 2009 by Fredfeldman
But that's just the point isn't it "freechoice" Islamists don't want to blend in with the prodominant culture here, their goal is to establish Sharia Law in europe and the rest of the world for that matter.
15:13 November 30, 2009 by MarcoFFm
At least one country in Europe that makes a stop do the Islamists , they (Muslims) come to Europe and we have to adapt to them and their views we give them benefits everything they need and yet they complain about discrimination and all that , im totally against the way muslims want to rule Europe , is the Burkas is the way they treat people and everything , if a Woman from here goes there she has to be all cover and why their womans come here and make their own rules? i find disturbing in the age we are that people can be allowed to be all covered in public everytime i see one i move away do we know what they carry under that clothes do we know if is a man or a woman? You can say that im a racist or that i discriminate but im not i just think that they have more privileges here then us , most of them just live in benefits and shady business , the young ones what they do? all time in streets feeling like they control the world , if you know Frankfurt and the Zeil area you know what i mean everytime i pass there i forget what country or culture im in
15:15 November 30, 2009 by OPB
The Swiss have set an example for others to follow. It's good to see courage yet!
15:19 November 30, 2009 by Fredfeldman
Pity the poor germans (and indeed the rest of europe). They wanted to import cheap labor and now they are beginning to realize the price.
15:23 November 30, 2009 by Beynch
At least debate is still allowed in Switzerland. And this story is open to comment in the German version. In Sweden, opinion is not even permitted on this topic. And this story, and other stories on related topcs are routinely closed, in the Swedish version of The Local, this story is closed to comment. Log in to thelocal.se and see for yourselves. Control of opinion is creeping ever closer, so enjoy your freedoms while you still can. Political correctness is running amok, and forces are afoot to prevent an open exchange of ideas. The shout of "discrimination" ends all debate.
15:37 November 30, 2009 by freechoice
i think it will be challenging to see if European laws will override any of the Shariah laws as practise by the Muslims in Europe without causing riots among these two civilizations...
15:39 November 30, 2009 by rjtanston
Honestly, outlaw all religious building construction, and go even further to outlaw religion as any factor in politics...Enough blood has been spilled in the name of (fill in the blank with the name of your savior).
15:49 November 30, 2009 by Beynch
@rjtanston; While you have a point, it is not realistic in my opinion. The entire western system of justice, and its cultural norms, and definitions of decency, are based on Christianity, and are concepts worth preserving. Freechoice's comment above raises a valid question though. But nothing is more important than freedom of expression, even offensive ones, including those in Jyllandsposten. Those who try to stifle open debate must be stopped, at any cost. Besserwisser, corrupt, weakling politicians, with an orwellian approach, are in all European countries. Vote them out of office! Let our voices be heard at the ballot box!
16:04 November 30, 2009 by Baynik
As we are chatting away in our free Western world, Christians are being killed for their faith - want to guess where??? Muslim countries. The critique against a "tit-for-tat" argument is to be laughed at! Mist of these Muslims are in the west because of the freedoms that our faith and belief system created. They fled from the tyranny created by their own religious principles where the infidels are killed, women beaten, converts expelled from their families - if not killed and this all in the name of Islam. Today it's minarets, tomorrow it's sharia law, next week Jihad on the infidels! I am happy to live next to or befriend any person from any faith or race; but I cannot approve what their faith leads them to do to Christians, Jews, their own women or any converts! Maybe you could...
16:14 November 30, 2009 by rjtanston
@Beynch; In most areas, you are absolutely right...as is freechoice, but I must differ on religion...I hold nothing against any religious person, regardless of what religion. It just seems that when any religion congregates, the results are catastrophic...Especially in the Jewish/Christian/Muslim sectors. Stop religion in politics and we (the earth) would see a great improvement, but as long as the major religions of the world dictate the policies of their country, we are doomed to this hatred...
16:26 November 30, 2009 by Baynik
@rjtanston; forgive me for being the Bible believing Christian minority, but I do believe that a true relationship with a holy and loving God as revealed in the Christian faith has caused more peace, produced more humanitarian help, more tolerance and more good will than war! On this basis I also respect those of other faiths, but hey, what we have came as a direct result of Christian values and principles, I'm just not willing to give it all up for the Islamic alternative; I have to face the sad results of post-modern atheism already!
17:02 November 30, 2009 by rjtanston
@Beynch; No need for asking forgivness...I honor your beliefs, but can not and will not honor your, nor any ORGANIZED religion...Any religion can claim great successes in humanitarian aid, peace, etc....and I don't want to come against Christianity, as there are many great Christians, but, we do have to remember the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, plus numerous more murderous deeds done in the name of (the church) Christianity. It is in this sense that I write that ALL organized religion in co-operation with government should be banned. BTW, I am not Islam, nor Christian; I respect all other religious people, but do not respect organizations that prey upon religious beliefs. I am not an athiest, who believes in nothing....I believe in the Goddess, the eternal mother. Criticize me if you want.
17:16 November 30, 2009 by mossmusic
They voted overwhelmingly?!?!? I read it was only 51 percent of the vote.... Who does the research for these articles? Anyways, I think it is only fair to have a certain amount of churches and/or mosques built relative to the peolple who attend said places of worship and pay taxes. Here in Germany we pay a church tax. I am Catholic so I pay it gladly and in return I expect there to be a Catholic church for which I can worship. Fair as that. You don't pay, don't complain or comment. If they want to put minarets or donkeys on top, it doesn't concern me. So long as they pay the taxes involved.
17:18 November 30, 2009 by mixxim
Why can't we vote? Do we want churches of any religion at all?
17:28 November 30, 2009 by Beynch
@rjtanston: In what year did we have the Crusades, the inquisition and the Salem Witch trials? Bring your reference points forward to 2009, modern times.
18:49 November 30, 2009 by Ceven
I'm thoroughly disgusted by a few of these comments. I truly hope oyu get the same judgment that you are putting out against people you don't even know.

For anyone else who is even remotely interested, I wrote an article about this subject:


Really, will it take another Holocaust before people get it through their thick fat heads that racism is inexcusable no matter who you are?

Please do some deep soul-searching itno your spiteful words.
21:30 November 30, 2009 by KipHamilton
While there are certainly many racists who are anti-Muslim, there are others who are simply deeply suspicious of any ultra- conservative belief system, Islam included. Islam is an unreformed, inherently conservative belief system from the past, and its legal system of Sharia does not jibe with modern attitudes of civil liberties to women, gays, atheists, polytheists etc. I feel the same about other conservative belief systems, including fundamentalist Christianity. Quite frankly, I have no negative feelings about the race or ethnicity of anyone- but if I find their belief system to be intolerant and aggressive, I will remain suspicious of its spreading influence.
21:56 November 30, 2009 by nepo77
God is dead
22:56 November 30, 2009 by lordkorner
I wonder just how much "Muslim" money is in those Swiss Banks....or do they say No to that too.
01:23 December 1, 2009 by Bostonexpat
xenophobic, etc; we can label the results various ways but most importantly the Swiss people have voted and it is their country ... period.
01:52 December 1, 2009 by Ich
No Nation State can tolerate a religious cult that "trumps the Constitution", as US Army Mj Nidal Hasan stated before he murdered 13 infidel comrads in arms.

No State can extend religious tolerance to a religion that does not reciprocate, fully and unconditionally.

And no individual can associate himself with a religion that sponsors terrorism and violence without incurring some the responsibility for it.

Islam needs a Reformation; a Martin Luther who will separate the Islamic church and state, something for which the Western World paid dearly in wars and ruin.

IS it so much, after 9/11, to expect gratitude from expatriated Muslims for the religious tolerance extended to them, for no other recompense, that they respect it rather than exploit it?
05:48 December 1, 2009 by John Qualls
The issue that is not discussed with Islam is that in their culture the religious and political leaders are the same people. Generally people do not have a problem with Islam as a religion but do have a problem with Islam bringing with it the political and religion connection and seeming to expect that their religious leaders should dictate political/cultural issues here also. Religion and secular government should be kept separate.
14:03 December 1, 2009 by mobiusro
What people seem to fail to understand is that it was not the building of mosques that was banned, but only the minarets, that is only the towers. I see two reasons for that

1. Arhitecture - they would just not fit in the European building style and we do know that there are strict plans for urbanistic development

2. Bother the non-muslim people living in the neighbourhood by making calls to prayers 5 times per day.

I for one would vote out the bell towers from Churches as well - it's mind numbing to hear that thing ding-dong for 30 mins sometimes and after that another 10 minutes or so as a "call to prayer". Surely the people know already the time the mass is?
20:46 December 1, 2009 by Nemesis
@ Beynch

For once I actually agree with you, even though my opinion is most likely diamtrically opposed to yours.

On the Swedish local they don't allow discussion of this issue.

Personally I would prefer to ban all religeous organisations from Europe. All they ever do is cause trouble.
23:35 December 1, 2009 by Thames
Europe is committing suicide
02:30 December 2, 2009 by Ich
Understand Islam before condemning it:

There is no "Pope"of Islam; Islam is only a collection of zealots who are free to interpret the Qu'ran and the Prophet in any way they choose.

Some Imams lead their followers into peace and reconciliation with their neighbors.

But some, clearly, quote the Prophet only to incite their followers to murder, violence and global terrorism, which is entirely secular and political.

And, there is no way to tell which expatriated Imams are sincere and which are only exploiting western religious tolerance to raise their minaretts as a beacon to other terrorists.

The peaceful Muslims of the world have a difficult choice to make.

But make it soon, before Islam is universally condemned.
03:01 December 2, 2009 by Stuart1977
A sickening infringement of religious freedom.
04:28 December 2, 2009 by OPB
Not at all. Europe was committing suicide, not anymore. This is a step in the right direction.
04:56 December 2, 2009 by raiteki
I think religious freedom is essential, but only in personal level, i.e. you don't preach to others openly, you don't forced others to follow your beliefs etc. In other words, religious freedom its okay, as long as the outermost limit is behind each individual's house/apartment's door.

I was born and live in earth's biggest muslim population country (figure it our yourself), coming from a catholic's family background I see how non-muslim citizens in this country is almost always being treated as second-class citizen. Eventually, I grew up as an agnostic person, and didnt really bother about religious issue at all. But in the process, I see how many of the people in this country (especially those who live in big city) started to develop mutual understanding to finally live as one people in one country (in the past the definition of being native is related to which religion you falls into). One thing that is prevailing is the mutual consent to keep what they believe to themselves. This is a growing attitudes in this country's younger generation and personally I started to see positive changes in our society.

Perhaps that can be applied in europe? or you guys actually have implement it, but the result is different? I don't know, anyway this is just my two cents as a non-european resident view on this topic :)

P.S. Personally I think religion is probably the greatest mistakes human ever invented, but then again, thats the past and what matter is how you cope up and walk forward with what the history inherits us right?...
16:13 December 2, 2009 by bramblebush
When a European nation deports and bans the immigration of those souless, heathen auslanders, only then will I be impressed.... Swiss vote 1st step, Italy, you need to lead the way.
00:15 December 3, 2009 by jerryc
I have been to several Moslem countries and while Germans may have an aversion to auslanders, nothing compares.

If you really want to hear an interesting story talk with a Christian who was born in a religious Moslem country.
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