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Minaret in Zurich


In a bizarre act of passive-aggression, Switzerland announced a moratorium on the construction of minarets on all mosques in the country. Although the Federal Council opposed the referendum, it passed with a majority of the vote. The referendum is technically unconstitutional, as it restricts freedom of religion, and violates international conventions on human rights. Nonetheless, the conservative Swiss People's Party will fight to keep it on the books.



Anti-minaret poster


There are only four minarets in the whole country, and only two more planned, making the ban an appallingly discriminatory knee-jerk reaction, especially from a country known for tolerance. It is also blatantly iconoclastic: attacking buildings shows a willingness, even an eagerness to conflate the symbol with the symbolized. This phenomenon surfaces at uneasy points in history, from Byzantine icon-smashers to modern journalists sublimating anxieties about China's growing economic power into fretful discussions about the extravagance/wackiness of the Olympic stadium complex. Perhaps the most famous case in the twentieth century was the U.S. government's demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects as a response to the miserable living conditions within. Cathartic destruction--or forbidding of construction--disperses fear without confronting it. Iconoclasm circumvents discussion by focusing on the physical accoutrements of conflict.


This is pure cowardice, an admission of defeat. Swiss voters are rejecting the mere possibility of dialogue and progress in favor of concealing the most visible reminders of Muslim presence. A minaret-free skyline will soothe xenophobes, while the four minarets are allowed to stand as reminders to Muslim citizens that their presence is barely tolerated.


 


From the L.A. Times:


http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2009/12/the-swiss-minaret-ban-islamophobia-lightly-veiled.html


From the New York Times:


http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/world/europe/30swiss.html


And from the always insightful Bldg Blog, a brilliant, witty response to the ban:


http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/make-mine-minaret.html

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