Minarets in Switzerland
How does Europe understand and deal with its immigrants, particularly those from the Middle East? A November 29th New York Times article sheds light on this question, detailing a recent, controversial vote by the Swiss on a proposal to ban the construction of new minarets in their country. According to the right-wing Swiss politicians backing the proposal, the building of minarets signifies an Islamization of their country, suggesting the growth of Islam as a salient political force. Contrast the building of minarets, the recreation of a cultural artifact to assist in the coalescence of geographically-displaced communities, with that of Islamic neo-fundamentalism—i.e., Al Qaeda, etc.—a real threat. These latter, according to theorist Olivier Roy, on the other hand, are unconcerned with such domestic affairs. The actions of these Swiss politicians, beyond intolerant, is myopic. Islamic fundamentalists do not seek to cement their relationships to their adopted homelands by grounding their religious practices in mosques and minarets; rather, their behavior reflects a “deterritorialisation of Islam,” in which their network spreads beyond, and without reference to the nation-state. The misguided parochialism of the conservative Swiss politicians is surely the wrong way to deal with Muslim immigrants. If the Swiss allow people to cross their national borders, then they must be willing to permit the concomitant entry of culture (religion), whether it wholly aligns with theirs or not. Tolerance is a two-way street and while Islam represents many things to people—some good, some bad—, banning minarets is more discriminatory than secularist.