The Swiss shame

The Swiss shame

 First things first. The victory on Nov 29 for Yes-sayers in the Swiss referendum on banning minarets is not an attack on Islam. It is secularism that has been trampled upon. Only 330,000 Muslims in a country of 7.5 million, with 150 mosques (only four with minarets), hardly pose a threat. 

The Islamophobia peddled by the far-right in Europe, the SVP (Swiss People’s Party) in case of Switzerland, is not merely paranoia. For neo-Nazis in Europe, it is a calculated strategy to turn European Muslims, ten percent of the EU’s population, into present-day Jews. By scapegoating Muslims or invoking fears of Europe’s ‘’Islamisation,’’ the far-right is widening the base of its support. Dismantling of the social-welfare state has only made the job easy for the far-right. 

It is easy to scare a jobless European, or the one risking redundancy, that his/her job has been stolen by an immigrant. This fear translates into banning of the burqa in France, compulsory language courses in Denmark for immigrants seeking citizenship or, for instance, the rise of Geert Wilders in Holland, who vows to ban madrasas there. (If this paranoid trend continues, one could also expect as absurd a development as banning Muslim names.) 

Hence, it is no coincidence that the referendum was held during a financial crisis. Recently, the major Swiss bank UBS averted bankruptcy with billions from taxpayers’ money while construction and SBB Cargo workers were on strike. By demonising the minuscule Swiss Muslim community, an attempt has been made to divide working people in the name of national identity and divert attention from economic problems. 

Ironically, if one goes by mainstream Western media, these absurd bans are presented as attempts to contain Islamic fundamentalism. For instance, in an editorial comment, The Wall Street Journal applauds the Swiss ban on minarets. The WSJ thinks the referendum “was a decidedly mild-mannered sort of protest” and advocates measures necessary to combat Swiss “fears” of “radical imams and terrorist acts.” By the way, newspapers like The Wall Street Journal never enlighten us as to the state funding of fundamentalists groups in France back in the 1970s lest striking Muslim immigrant workers should join communist unions. 

Incidentally, the first European ‘’affair of the veil’’ also took place in France back in 1989. Neither are we informed that every ban on an ‘’Islamic symbol’’ to contain ‘’radical Islam’’ helps from the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt win new recruits. These proscriptions reinforce the superficial ‘’clash of civilisation’’ myth. A ban on the burqa or minarets, instead of helping contain radical Islam, in fact, help fundamentalists spread their influence. This perhaps is also the aim of the European far right. After all, Khalil Gibran’s Father Samaan would be rendered jobless without Satan.

True, it is Muslims who are at present targeted and discriminated against in Europe. However, it is ultimately democracy that is being undermined. A democracy practising discrimination is apartheid suitable for Zionist Israel, not for Enlightenment’s Europe. It paves the way for fascism. Fascism, like religious fundamentalism, always needs an enemy within. This enemy within is always a minority. Hitlers begin with Jews and end up with the working classes. For Hitler the Jewish minority was merely a pretext. The actual target was always the majority non-Jewish Germans. 

The Swiss ban also offers an opportunity to the Muslim world for some soul- searching. There are few Muslim countries that do not discriminate, if not persecute, their religious minorities. Saudi Arabia, the Vatican of the Muslim world, does not permit non-Muslim immigrant workers even to carry a copy of the Bible or the Geeta, let alone allow the followers of these religions to build churches or temples. Hence, the reaction to the Swiss ban was a deafening silence by totalitarian rulers right across the Muslim world.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: [email protected]

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