Swiss Minaret Ban Reveals Religious Double Standard

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Author: Sarah Mofford

One would think there are few countries in the world more liberal than Switzerland. After all, the country has universal health care, proudly displays its human rights and tolerance and gives out Nobel prizes. All of these facts only heighten the disappointment that was felt by many, myself included, at the bill that passed in Switzerland on Nov. 29 that banned any minarets to be built after the four existing ones in the country. This bill successfully displays Switzerland’s hypocrisy when it comes to religious freedom.

A minaret is the slender tower of an Islamic mosque where the muezzin recites the adhan (call to prayer). Thus, it is an essential part of the Muslim religion. According to the Los Angeles Times, a lawmaker from the Swiss’s People’s Party, Oskar Freysinger, explained, “The minaret is a symbol of a political and aggressive Islam.” He continued by telling BBC News earlier this year that “the minute you have minarets in Europe, it means Islam will have taken over.”

However, minarets in Islam are no different from church bell towers in Christianity, which were historically used to call those in the village around them to pray.

In Freysinger’s theory, all bell towers would be equally harmful and dangerous. Numerous injustices and deadly practices have been committed by members of the Catholic and Protestant churches and their many sections. Yet there have been no public outcries to halt the building of bell towers. This shows a bias behind who is considered dangerous and who is considered perfectly safe.

Islam and Christianity actually have many similarities. They are both monotheistic religions. Both stress piety and virtue. Both have followers who have spent their lives doing good deeds and good work, trying to make the world a better place and dispel stereotypes about their own sections of the religion.

Minarets should symbolize these positive things as well – yet, in the eyes of many, they do not. The similarities between Christianity and Islam are ignored when the religion of Islam is seen as only as an extremist and violent organization. Thus, minarets unfairly become only a symbol of those qualities.

In response to this perception of Islam as extreme and violent, much of the Western world, like Switzerland, has taken extreme measures against those seen as connected to the religion. In America, hate crimes against Muslims soared post 9/11. America is not alone in these anti-Islamic sentiments. One need only read the Violence Against Muslim 2008 Hate Crime Survey produced by the Human Rights First organization to see the numerous hate crimes against Muslims that have occurred throughout Europe, including Denmark, Finland, Sweden and other countries normally known and praised for their just practice of human rights regulations and religious tolerance.

For now, the 350,000 Muslim residents within Switzerland’s borders will have to be satisfied with their four minarets in a forest of chapels and cathedrals that populate the mountains and villages around them. Instead of separating a religion from its fanatics, Switzerland, and much of the Western world, has continued its reign of generalizations and religious hypocrisy.

Sarah Mofford is an undeclared sophomore. She can be reached at smofford@oxy.edu.

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