Sunday, November 29, 2009

Swiss Miss

Today I read on the news that voters in Switzerland overwhelmingly approve of a ban on building minarets in mosques. The right wing party that supports the ban claims it is a step to avoid the islamization of Switzerland. They claim minarets are not religious, but political symbols. By the way, the call to prayer is banned in this country. Switzerland, of course, prides itself, besides its watches, chocolates and shady banking, on its strong democracy, so these developments present an interesting conundrum. Understandable reactions are of shock at the intolerance. I find it hard to buy the notion that a minaret is a political tool, particularly if you can't use it to broadcast the call to prayer to begin with. In a way, it's like banning churches from having bell towers. Absurd.
What the ban seems to be saying is, you and your religion are not totally welcome here. And in this here democracy, you are going to toe the line. If you don't like it, go to Iran.
This, I believe, is a corollary from the utter terror Western democracies feel about radical Islam. This equally understandable fear would have never taken hold if Islamic fundamentalists had not decided to go on their murderous rampages against the West. Nobody would think to bother with minarets.
What does not assuage Western fears is that moderate Islam seems ineffectual against the crazies. Moderation is by nature timid; obviously it will have much less impact than a beheading. And I am convinced that even moderate Muslims are deeply afraid of the radicals in their religion. They don't seem to be coming out in droves to condemn them or reject them, and this silence, this lack of moderate leadership (understandable in a religion that also has different warring factions) makes everyone deeply nervous.
Elsewhere in this blog I have opined that if you are a Jew, a Muslim or a member of the Church of Elvis, and you live in a secular democracy, you have to follow the law of the land. Deeply intolerant people take advantage of tolerant political systems, and then the tolerant become intolerant towards the intolerant, which is now the case in places like Britain, France and now Switzerland. 
Unfortunately, this polarization, this lack of a middle ground, seems to inflame religious passions, which doesn't help. I wish it would spur the moderate majority of Muslims both in the West and elsewhere to reject the psychopaths and to profess their faith in peace with the rest of us, infidels.

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