Errant European

Swiss Flag
Swiss Flag

Muslim communities say the decision will spread deep concern and worry. The Swiss government and businesses are worried too – about whether this controversial but democratic ballot will provoke an international backlash.

Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera English, “Swiss brace for minaret backlash”

What if that backlash were to include a disinvestment or divestment wave among Muslim countries, selling off Swiss franc securities, withdrawing hidden billions (trillions?) from Swiss bank accounts? It’s not up to me to call for any such thing. After all, the hundreds of thousands of Muslim residents (and probably a certain number of Muslim Swiss citizens) have gotten along somehow with a minimum of minarets all these years – apparently there may be as few as four (4) in all of Switzerland! – while toiling away to help develop the Swiss economy.

But this has as much to do with minarets as the debate over the veil has to do with women’s fashion. The latter may have undercurrents of concern about women’s rights, whereas the Swiss “Oui/Ja” campaign has all to do with Islamophobia. Can the Swiss relax a bit and think of their new neighbours as something other than a threat? The experience of a Swiss Family Robinson (actually Swiss Family Diplomatic is more like it) is instructive.

These friends of ours, a Suisse-Romand from Lausanne and his wife from Bern, returned a few years ago to their capital city after a quarter century roaming the world under the Swiss flag. Settling back into life in their native country, they were immediately taken aback by their neighbours’ attitude. Introducing oneself to the man next door – something our friends did naturally in Africa or Latin America – was greeted with suspicion and worse. “I have been waiting for years to tell you about that bothersome window…” one next-door neighbour helpfully greeted their knock on the door.

When the native Bern wife went to the local post office and spoke a rusty form of the patois, her ignorance of the latest procedures was met with incredulous suspicion – how can you have reached your fifth decade of life and not know these rudimentary rules? The fact that she had spent the better part of the previous three decades helping her husband give Switzerland a good name in diplomatic circles around the world was lost on the local burghers. They just didn’t fit in.

If the above can happen to French-German-Italian speaking Christian native Swiss, then the minaret ban is probably the least of the worries for the poor Muslim Swiss. And they know that.

The question is: do the “Yes” voters on the minaret ban know what they’ve done? Financial flows may begin to tell us in the very near future. And how about all those unofficial, storefront or storage locker mosques, without minarets? Will they make the Swiss feel more secure than a properly constituted, publicly visible mosque with a trained Imam? Who will be leading prayers in the underground mosques, and what will they be preaching?

India at one point had a Ministry of Disinvestment. How long will it be before we see Muslim finance ministers examine their Swiss holdings?

Author :


  1. Dear Sir,

    I read your arguments and I agree that many consequences of this vote may be seen in the near future on the economic side. But, at the same time, it is not good to think that choosing between YES and NO should always be done on the principal of money-making and financial benefits.

    I deeply believe that Swiss are neither islamophobs, nor have anything against their Muslim neighbours. Swisss are simply afraid of political Islam, and that is already becoming a big concern in the whole Europe.

    If you look at Belgium, Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden and many other states, you will clearly see how lack of integration (which is not only immigrants’ fault, but also a fault of the host country) is making huge problems in those societies. Extremism is gaining big strenght, and in some quartiers of Brussels you cannot any more behave as you are in Belgium (women without vail or in a short skirt etc..are so often harresed, alcohol is not served anywhere in their neighbourhoods, they constantly attack police…etc) The same thing is everywhere else in the Western Europe…(gays are beaten by young Morrocans in once friendly Amsterdam) etc etc. And once again, Europe should not be against immigration, or against Muslims! BUT, Europe must learn to defend and strenghten its own democratic system and principles of liberty, freedom of speech and other civil rights that our culture created. EVERYONE is welcome to join it, and I know A LOT of Muslims who accept this and LOVE their life in EU. But they are also afraid of the rising influence of extremist Islamists.

    Please, try to take those arguments in consideration, instead of only business interests of Swiss or any other economy.

    Thank you.

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