Powered by WebAds

Monday, November 30, 2009

Swiss surprise

Many of you outside the Middle East and Switzerland itself may not appreciate the significance of Sunday's vote in Switzerland to ban new minarets (that's a picture of one in Switzerland at left) next to mosques.

The noontime news broadcasts here in Israel played several Arab news broadcast openings each of which used the word 'surprise' to described the Swiss vote. All the polls indicated that the initiative, which was opposed by the Swiss government, would fail. The country's 300,000 - 450,000 Muslims (among a population of 7-7.5 million) has only four minarets (none of which broadcasts a call to service due to strict noise pollution laws) among its 150 mosques. And yet, the measure passed.

What are the likely results? Robin Shepherd says that the minaret measure could make the Danish cartoons riot look like a walk in the park.
The move is likely to provoke the kind of mass confrontation that followed the publication of a series of cartoons in Denmark in 2005 which linked the Prophet Mohammed to terrorism. In the months that followed, more than 100 people died in unrest across the Muslim world, Danish embassies and shops were burned to the ground and protests erupted by Muslim groups in Europe calling for the censorship of opinions considered insulting to Islam.


It is far too early to draw conclusions about today’s unfolding events in Switzerland and I will comment later when the situation becomes clearer. But it looks as though a backlash against Islam in Europe by nationalist forces energised by the failures of multiculturalist orthodoxies is now really starting to take hold.

It is just such an implosion of the centre-ground in favour of polarising groups on either side that has long been predicted by critics of politically correct, multiculturalist ideology. In other words, if mainstream parties refused to deal with the problem of intolerance and bigotry inside Muslim groups in a civilised manner, it was inevitable that fringe groups would deal with the problem in an uncivilised manner, all the while garnering ever greater support from a wider public disillusioned by the way things have been going. There’s more of this to come. You can rely on it.
We're already seeing results from this vote from Turkey, for instance.
In Turkey, where there is a broad perception that prejudice against Muslims is growing in Europe, the Swiss referendum was watched with concern.

On private television station NTV, Saim Yeprem, a former senior administrator at Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, called the outcome "a result of Islamophobia." Noting that several mosques in Europe were financed by 19th-century Ottoman sultans, he said "it is a sign for the worse that Europe, which in those days tolerated mosque-building, is unwilling today to tolerate minarets."

Turkey is negotiating to join the European Union, but since talks began in late 2005, France, Germany and several other countries have argued the predominantly Muslim country isn't sufficiently European to join. Several areas of the talks have stalled and resentment at the apparent rejection is rising in Turkey.

Cavid Aksin, an Istanbul metalworker, was angered that the referendum coincided with the end of one of the most important religious feasts in the Muslim calendar. "I think Turkey should have a referendum on whether to close down its churches," he said.
That idea is laughable, because there are Muslim countries where churches are illegal (e.g. Saudi Arabia) and many more Muslim countries where synagogues are illegal and where Jews are not allowed entry and cannot be residents or citizens. But given Turkey's attempts to enter the EU - of which Switzerland is not a member - the fact that a measure like this passed on the Continent is a stinging rebuke to Muslims all over Europe and Turkish reaction reflects the insult.

In Switzerland itself, those who pushed the referendum now want to build on their victory.
In Switzerland, People's Party leader Walter Wobman said the group will now fight to ban the burqa as well as to institute a law against forced marriage. Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf released a statement saying the government respected the vote, but emphasized it "is not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture."
Of course it is. It's at least a rejection of the Muslim community's efforts to impose its culture and mores on others, or at least of what is perceived as an attempt to do so.

Meanwhile, here in Israel, at least one MK has gotten the idea to do something about our own minarets, which are quite noisy.
The fight against the muezzins - the pre-dawn, loud, mournful calls to prayer by Islamic prayer leaders, or recordings thereof - has reached the Knesset, where MK Aryeh Bibi (Kadima) is promoting a bill to silence them.

Bibi says that the 4 a.m. call to prayer “wreaks havoc in Jerusalem,” awakening people in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. “There is no reason why they can’t do what they do in Turkey, Egypt and elsewhere,” Bibi told Arutz-7’s Hebrew newsmagazine, “and that is to have a ‘silent radio station’ which ‘awakens’ every day at 4 o'clock with the call to prayer. This way, those who want to wake up can do so; why do they have to wake up the whole world?”
Yes, they are quite noisy. As someone who goes to bed at 4:00 am from time to time, I cannot tell you how much I don't appreciate the mournful, wailing, "Allah Hu Akhbar" coming out of the minaret that's about 500 meters from my house as I'm trying to doze off for an hour or two.

But that's an issue of noise and not an issue of religious practice. We may have fears of our country being overrun by Muslims, but they are very different from European fears on the same issue.

Sunday's vote is a wake-up call to Muslims to tone it down. But Robin Shepherd is correct that it's also a wake up call to moderate groups in Europe and elsewhere: If you don't stop with the political correctness and address the issues, people who are far more extreme than you are going to address them for you and you may not like the consequences. I hope that several European governments and the Obama administration in the US have gotten the message.


At 4:43 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

European governments have done a poor job of assimilating Muslim immigrants to European culture and they are now reaping the consequences. Considering that freedom of religion is non-existent in the Muslim World, its good to see Europe still has some survival instincts left. It must address the Muslim challenge in a manner consonant with its values, or die. The Swiss have seen the handwriting on the wall. Its just a matter of time before the rest of the Continent follows suit.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Ashan said...

Many years ago, my husband and I nearly decided to build our house on a Mitzpeh (hilltop community) in the Galilee. We stood there looking at a beautiful plot of land overlooking a forested area with a stunning view. We were about to call over the community official to express our interest in the plot, when suddenly the horrific, ear-piercing wail of a muezzin started up from the Arab village below (totally obscured by the trees). We looked at each other, made an about-face and left the Mitzpeh never to return.

Remember - Dear Leader Hussein, in an interview before the election, remarked that this call to domination is one of the most beautiful sounds he's ever heard.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Eliyahu in Shilo said...

"I hope that several European governments and the Obama administration in the US have gotten the message."

I always took you for a realist Carl...


Post a Comment

<< Home