Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Banning a tower

On Sunday their was a vote in Switzerland in which voters moved forward with a ban on building any further minarets (which are found atop mosques - apparently there are around 4 in the country at present). To give some defense, apparently the government and various religious leaders weren't keen to see it pass, and the news media in the country looked down on the results. But...58 percent of those voting did like the idea. And now future construction is banned, until the EU courts get in and, I imagine, take the Swiss to task.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment, is ticked at this and looks at how unfair this just is.

AMERICAblog, also looks.

They play devils advocate to consider a sound reason to do a ban. So let us consider.

Banning of certain architecture. I think government has some power here. You can limit zoning, controlling residential uses, business uses, etc. You can argue to control height, in some places and cases, but it has to be limited and bases on some actual logic. But what is this? Just a ban on one piece of structural work, used by one religion. Will spires on churches be curtailed? How about steeples? No. This makes it a vindictive choice. Picking on an unpopular group, going after people deemed to be in the wrong. And any debate as to any merit is immaterial in what was covered in this vote -- but it seems it was material to many who voted in support of it.

How about sound? The call to prayer is famous for being yelled out from the minaret. That would be annoying to neighbor. And there are laws on noise volumes. But, again, what about churches? Ever been near (going to or by, or living near) on a Sunday morning? Those damn bells! What about that? As long as all annoyances are treated the same, great. But as has been noted, mosques in Switzerland do not do a call to prayer...having, it seems, assimilated somewhat into cultural and local needs.

The other point of interest is the question of assimilating. And there needs to be some give and take here. But how much? No minarets? There has to be a reason. Do we try to squelch aspects of Eastern Orthodox churches, or how about that huge Hindi temple they built a few years again outside of London, do we have a problem with that? What about Chinatowns, and other similar neighborhoods (Little Tokyo, Little Sicily, etc.), we seem to accept these.

There are problems with Islam, no doubt. There are problems with how it is situated in Europe and how some of its devotees there approach there beliefs. And it is reasonable to give people some room to grow and change, and hold on to some culture. Though there are limits. No Sharia law, no cultural based justice, etc. The laws of the land should be respected. And in turn, those integrating into a larger culture should be afforded their due rights.

How we approach this. Making "them" the enemy is a way to creates ones own self-fulfilling prophecy. Europe has a long history of dealing with minority groups, and often not doing it well. Jews. Muslims. Catholics. Protestants. Inquisitions. Crusades. Huguenots. And on and on.

Some have made a claim it is no big deal. It is just a minaret. Mosques can still go up. True. But it is a single step, potentially a first step. Why should we sit silent on that, especially when it seems so clearly to be wrongheaded?

In the end, this is about punishing Muslims. It is about teaching a social group in a community a lesson. Is this the way to do such a things? I have serious problems with the way most Islamic governments act, I have a problem with the way some Muslim groups advocate and others act, and I have serious problems with how certain Muslims persons affect the world. So we go after the whole? What result to do people see coming from this? All this is is a new talking points for fanatical imams, a new rallying cry for those that want to play the role of the persecuted, the wronged, the righteous man standing against tyrants.

This only helps the wrong people, fanatics of Islam and of the far right. Good job.


In its coverage, Crooks and Liars notes that now the Netherlands may be trying to follow in the footsteps of the Swiss.

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