Interesting news out of Switzerland this week...In a national referendum,the Swiss voted by a margin of 58% to ban the construction of minarets. Okay. Frankly, I have mixed feelings about this. First, Switzerland is not exactly being overrun by minarets (there are currently 4), and most Muslim immigrants to Switzerland are from the former Yugoslavia--in short, already European. I think, perhaps, that the horse is already out of the barn, as they say. This law will do nothing to facilitate Muslim assimilation into Swiss society, if that is even a possibility. And one suspects that the Swiss are not alarmed at how a growing Islamic presence affects the remnant of their Christian culture, but rather that Muslims threaten Swiss secularism.
As expected, there has been considerable outcry over the measure, it being roundly condemned by secular Europeans who find themselves a bit embarrassed by it all. Oh, the intolerance! One woman huffed, "this is not my Switzerland." Yes, nothing says Switzerland quite like Heidi, Edelweiss and minarets.
All that said, I find myself in sympathy with the measure. When thinking through the ramifications of this measure, I remembered the medieval churches of Bulgaria. There's not that many of them, really. 500 years under the Ottoman thumb took its toll on that sort of thing. The ones that survive from that era (several I visited in Arbanassi) are not typical soaring Orthodox temples. They are somewhat squatty and barn-like in appearance, as the Turks disallowed churches from being higher than the local mosque. But one might say that that is ancient history. [I think the secular West--we Americans, particularly--may be the only people who think in terms of "ancient" history; to everyone else, there is simply history.] Contemporary restrictions against Christians remain the norm under Islamic regimes, excepting perhaps Syria, Jordan and Lebanon--for now. So should Swiss Muslims--even Europeanized former Yugoslav Muslims--expect the very consideration from the West that their coreligionists refuse to grant? I simply think the question should be framed for discussion in this context. Finally, the minaret is not simply a quaint Arabic architectural preference. The infamous old quip of now Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan--"minarets are our bayonets"--was much quoted by proponents of the measure. And while he may now regret having ever said it, there is much truth in the statement. The minaret is meaningless if not connected to the adhan, the Muslim call to pray. As is commonly known, the muezzin's call to prayer is usually broadcast by loudspeaker from these minarets, 5 times a day. In Islamic countries, the adhan is all-pervasive and intrusive, impossible to ignore or escape--as is the intention. The minaret and the adhan are inherently triumphalist. As I understand it, the adhan is not broadcast from Switzerland's 4 minarets. For now. Finally, the vote may offer a bit of hope that perhaps the cultural suicide of western Europe is not completely a foregone conclusion. We'll see.