Banning minarets: the Swiss solution to radical Islam

THEO HEIMANN/AFP Switzerland has just two small minarets. But two are more than enough for some members of the country’s right-wing Swiss People’s Party. They are collecting signatures to force a referendum that would ban the building of minarets. The problem isn’t that minarets would be a large eyesore; a minaret that has been proposed by an ethnic Albanian in ...

601623_070530_minarets_05.jpg
601623_070530_minarets_05.jpg

THEO HEIMANN/AFP

Switzerland has just two small minarets. But two are more than enough for some members of the country's right-wing Swiss People's Party. They are collecting signatures to force a referendum that would ban the building of minarets. The problem isn't that minarets would be a large eyesore; a minaret that has been proposed by an ethnic Albanian in the small town of Langenthal would only be 5 meters (16.5 feet) high. The problem isn't loud calls to prayer; the country's two minarets are silent, as would also be the Langenthal one. No, the problem seems to be fear of change.

Oskar Freysinger, a member of parliament for the Swiss People's Party, says:

THEO HEIMANN/AFP

Switzerland has just two small minarets. But two are more than enough for some members of the country’s right-wing Swiss People’s Party. They are collecting signatures to force a referendum that would ban the building of minarets. The problem isn’t that minarets would be a large eyesore; a minaret that has been proposed by an ethnic Albanian in the small town of Langenthal would only be 5 meters (16.5 feet) high. The problem isn’t loud calls to prayer; the country’s two minarets are silent, as would also be the Langenthal one. No, the problem seems to be fear of change.

Oskar Freysinger, a member of parliament for the Swiss People’s Party, says:

We don’t have anything against Muslims. But we don’t want minarets. The minaret is a symbol of a political and aggressive Islam, it’s a symbol of Islamic law. The minute you have minarets in Europe it means Islam will have taken over.

He doesn’t have anything against Muslims? Yeah, right. And since when did minarets—the rough equivalent of a church steeple—become a symbol of “political and aggressive Islam”? Granted, concerns about extremist Islam are entirely legitimate. But banning minarets isn’t going to stop radical Islam. In fact, isolating and angering a community is more likely to radicalize it.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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