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POST: Sarkozy Admits Bias Against European Muslims

December 9, 2009

Last week, voters in Switzerland, long known as country tolerant of differences in race and religion, passed a referendum to ban the future building on minarets, the ubiquitous and beautiful towers which both broadcast the call to prayer and mark the location of mosques. To it’s credit, the Swiss government opposed the referendum, saying it was a sign of intolerance and “would harm Switzerland’s image, particularly in the Muslim world.” Although it initially accepted the decision of its voters (the national referendum passed with 57.5% for and 42.5% against), Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf also released a statement that although Islamic fundamentalism must be taken seriously, “a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies.”

In the immediate aftermath, a number of countries and organizations came out to condemn the move. The UN called it discriminatory and an “undue restriction” on religious freedom, while many non-Muslim religious groups also came out against it, including a the Conference of European Rabbis who released a statement saying “Europe cannot beat radical Islam by beating down minarets; moderate elements should be supported.” The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, and a number of countries including Iran, Egypt, and Turkey were vocal against the referendum. Even now, a reversal is in the works.

But today, the first day since the referendum passed that I did not consider writing a post condemning it, French President Nicholas Sarkozy came out in defense of the referendum and blatantly going against the statements of French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who last week lambasted the referendum and stating his shock at its passage. Sarkozy,  writing in France’s Le Monde newspaper, called for Europeans of all faiths to avoid “ostentation” and “provocation” and said he understood the feelings of the Swiss who voted in favor of the referendum. “Instead of condemning the Swiss out of hand, we should try to understand what they meant to express and what so many people in Europe feel, including people in France” he said. He is the first European leader of this stature to come out in defense of the move, which most see as not only immoral but also illegal.

So does this mean France support the Swiss ban on minarets? Certainly not. But, the French President should watch his words or possibly face political and social backlashes to his too-candid remarks, especially from French Muslims already marginalized in their own country.

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One comment

  1. The BBC Writes:
    “The vote is very bad news for the Swiss government which fears unrest among the Muslim community, says the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Bern.

    Wilders welcomed the ban and called for the Netherlands to follow suit
    The Swiss government had opposed the ban, saying it would harm Switzerland’s image, particularly in the Muslim world.
    Voters worried about rising immigration – and with it the rise of Islam – had ignored the government’s advice, our correspondent adds.
    The government said it accepted the decision, and that the construction of new minarets would no longer be permitted.
    Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said: “Concerns [about Islamic fundamentalism] have to be taken seriously.
    “However, a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies.”
    She sought to reassure Swiss Muslims, saying the decision was “not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture”.”

    Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf is wrong, it obviously IS a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture by the voters of Switzerland and frankly I am surprised by their paranoia. Hopefully this isn’t a foreshadow and the rest of Europe and the world realizes how closely this resembles the initial actions of Nazi Germany against the Jews.



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