Europe

Amnesty Blasts Swiss Minaret Ban Plan

28/06/2009

IslamOnline.net & News Agencies

 

“The problem is not linked to minarets. In reality, they want to exploit fears that already exist among people and whip up xenophobic feelings for political gain,” said Bolomey. (Google)

GENEVA – Amnesty International blasted on Sunday, June 28, a far-right campaign to ban minaret construction in Switzerland, warning the drive aims to exploit fears of Muslims and encourage xenophobia for political gains.

“This initiative claims to be a defense against ‘rampant Islamification’ of Switzerland,” Daniel Bolomey, the head of Amnesty’s Swiss office, said in a statement cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“But it seeks to discredit Muslims and defames them, pure and simple.”

A campaign was launched last year by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and a small ultra-conservative Christian party to have the building of minarets banned in Switzerland.

The far-right parties claim that a minaret is not necessary for worship but is rather a symbol of Islamic law which is incompatible with Switzerland’s legal system.

The campaign has caused an outcry in the Swiss political world, with the government denouncing it as unconstitutional and discriminatory.

The SVP has amassed 113,000 votes to force a nationwide ballot on the minaret ban.

Under Swiss rules, the electorate can request a popular vote if it manages to collect 100,000 signatures within 18 months from eligible voters for the initiative.

No date has been set for the vote, but it is not expected to take place before November.

A nationwide referendum on the issue would be binding under the country’s system of direct democracy.

For Political Gains

Amnesty said the far-right campaigners want to exploit the fear of Muslims and encourage xenophobia for political gains.

“For those behind this plan, the problem is not linked to minarets,” said Bolomey.

“In reality, they want to exploit fears that already exist among people and whip up xenophobic feelings for political gain.”

The center-right Free Democratic Party (FDP) also attacked the far-right campaign, saying it would only compound “unfounded” fears against the country’s Muslims.

The campaign has already shocked Switzerland’s 350,000 Muslims, many of whom have been campaigning for decades for more recognition for their faith.

Switzerland is a secular state, whose constitution guarantees freedom of religious expression to all.

Mosques in Switzerland tend to be confined to disused warehouses and factories.

Across the country, there are only four mosques with minarets; none of them is used to raise the Azan, the call to prayer.

In Switzerland’s capital Berne, the largest mosque is in a former underground car park.

Islam is the second religion in the country after Christianity; however Muslims are often the object of animosity.