The Swiss about to Vote on Allowing Minarets in Their Cities

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Here is an article by the BBC on mosques' efforts in Switzerland to work on a public relations campaign in preparation for an important vote that will decide whether to ban the construction of minarets or not. Switzlerland, where I used to live, is a curious place.

On one hand, you have international cities like Geneva that have a host of different peoples well-integrated and living more or less in social harmony (one-third of the population is foreign in this city).

On the other hand you have some conservative cantons where you still need a sword to vote in domestic politics, if I am not mistaken as one of my Swiss friends from Appenzell told me once, and where women did not get the right to vote until the 1990s.

As someone who has repeatedly been woken up from my nice Sunday late morning dozing by church bells, I do not see why minarets would cause such a calamity. In fact, it is utter hypocracy not to allow them. However, mind you, while Swiss political parties may disagree in their religious in/tolerance, one thing all Swiss have in common is their disdain for loud noises. I once got a dirty note from my land lady for beating eggs too loud and too early in the morning. You can potentially get fined for flushing your toilet after ten pm there. Minarets Kuwaiti-style, aka, with mega-blast mega-phones and broadcast sermons, I do not think would thus fly. Here is the article.

Muslims in many parts of Switzerland have invited the public into mosques - three weeks before a vote on whether to ban the construction of minarets.

Muslim organisations say they hope their open day will counter what they say are fears and prejudices. The conservative group that initiated the vote - the largest party in the Swiss parliament - says minarets are a symbol of Muslim political power. Opinion polls suggest the proposed ban will be rejected by voters. A Muslim community leader in Zurich, Tamir Hadjipolu, said the proposal - launched by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) - was "open discrimination".

Preaching to the converted?

Switzerland is home to 400,000 Muslims, who have about 200 places of worship. Only four have a minaret, local media say. The open day was held on Saturday in 12 cantons, including Geneva, Vaud and Freiburg. "We hope these meetings will build a dialogue and better understanding," said Hisham Maizar, a senior Muslim representative in eastern Switzerland.

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes, who visited a mosque in Zurich, says the many non-Muslims who came enjoyed themselves. But the debate is raging outside the building, our correspondent says, and the Muslims inside were likely to be preaching to the converted.

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