Swiss voters' approval of a proposal to ban the building of minarets raises several issues.
Many of the voters consider minarets a sign of Islamization of their free country, and more than 57 percent opted for the ban Sunday. The government opposed the ban, saying it would harm Switzerland's image, particularly in the Muslim world.
The points to consider on this matter include the following: Can Muslims blame the Swiss people for being afraid of Islamization in their country? No, especially while the entire world sees the inhumane applications of Islamic law wherever it is implemented? It should not be unexpected that the Swiss people would not want a system that even today practices discrimination against women, gays, and minorities in the name of religion.
The vivid images of stoning women and hanging gays in the Muslim world should make any sane individual inclined not to allow such an intolerant system to grow anywhere under the banner of freedom of religion. The Swiss people who rejected building minarets may be sending a message that their tolerance did not change the Muslim world. For several decades, Muslims have been allowed to build mosques in Europe, wear their religious symbols such as the hijab, and preach Islam to non-Muslims.
Despite such high levels of tolerance toward Muslims in the West, non-Muslims are not permitted to practice similar rights in several parts of the Muslim world. Preaching Christianity is criminalized in a number of Muslim countries.
Furthermore, non-Muslims are not permitted to have their holy books or to build their religious temples is many shariah controlled areas. This lack of reciprocity of the Western tolerance will naturally make many Westerners feel that showing tolerance to Muslims is not effective. It seems strange that Muslims would insist on building minarets for Mosques in Switzerland while thousands of Mosques already exist inside the Muslim world without minarets.
Many see the minarets as representing superiority of Islam, especially when their level is higher than the churches' level; this sheds some light on the hidden intentions of Muslims who insisted on building minarets in the heart of Europe.
It is important that Muslims in Switzerland explain why they insist on using such historical symbols of Muslim superiority when it is neither mentioned in the Quran nor considered vital to building a mosque. It seems too hypocritical that Muslims demand building minarets in Europe but deny many non-Muslims in the Muslim world their basic and fundamental religious rights to build churches, or even carry their holy book with them.
The more important problem for Muslims in Switzerland to address is the Muslim world's not giving basic religious rights to its non-Muslim minorities, not building these unneeded minarets.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad." He was a former associate of Dr. al-Zawahiri (second in command of al-Qaida) and currently he is a reformer of Islam. For more information, visit www.tawfikhamid.com. Hamid's writings in this blog represent only his thoughts and not the views of the institute where he works.
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