Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Swiss referendum 'reflects unease with Islam'

As a Swiss referendum backs a ban on the building of minarets, the BBC's Islamic affairs analyst Roger Hardy looks at the often uneasy relationship between Islam and Europe.

It might be argued that Switzerland is a special case without much relevance to the rest of Europe. It is true enough that the country has its own individual form of popular democracy - and that it is home to only 320,000 Muslims, between 4% and 5% of the population. But it is not just in Switzerland that the presence of growing Muslim communities has polarised opinion.

A series of controversies from the Rushdie affair 20 years ago to the more recent row over Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad have reflected the unease that many Europeans feel about this relatively new Muslim presence. This is not confined to a few tabloid newspapers or a few xenophobic right-wing parties. It is an Islamophobia driven by a variety of factors. Since the attacks of 9/11 in the United States, and the bombings in Madrid and London, Muslims have often been regarded as a security threat.

They are seen as not just resistant to integration, but determined to impose their values on the Christian or post-Christian societies of the West. For governments anxious to maintain social harmony at home and good relations with Muslim governments abroad, this poses a set of difficult dilemmas. And for many of the estimated 15 million Muslims in Western Europe, the Swiss vote will be seen as one more sign that - whatever governments may say - they are simply not welcome.


  1. the main function of the minaret is to provide a vantage point from which the call to prayer (adhan) is made.In most modern mosques, the adhan is called not from the minaret but from the musallah, or prayer hall, via a microphone and speaker system.
    my point is why are the minarets not welcome in europe???.

  2. FC Malang, its not that Minarets are not welcome in Europe, for now its Switzerland and to me i dont thing it has to do with Minarets, i think it more based on ignorance, it just shows that muslims are not welcomed in Switzerland really. I dont see how offensive a minaret will be to people it doesnt harm anyone. It just shows that people are limited in their thinking, when you look at the poster to them, they see Muslims are extremists i dont think it occurs in their minds that are variations.