Swiss Sharply Criticized After Vote to Ban New Minarets
The ban has propelled the country to the forefront of a European debate on how far countries should go to assimilate Muslim immigrants and Islamic culture.
Government ministers trying to contain the fallout voiced shock and disappointment with the result, which the Swiss establishment newspaper Le Temps called a “brutal sign of hostility” to Muslims that was “inspired by fear, fantasy and ignorance.”
The country’s justice minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, said that the vote was not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture, but that it reflected fears among the population.
With support for the ban from 57.5 percent of voters, however, ministers were forced to admit they had failed to quell popular anxieties about the impact of what right-wing parties have portrayed as “creeping Islamization.”
Ms. Widmer-Schlumpf acknowledged it was “undeniably a reflection of the fears and uncertainties that exist among the population — concerns that Islamic fundamentalist ideas could lead to the establishment of parallel societies.”
Outside Switzerland, criticism was harsh.
“I am a bit shocked by this decision,” France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said in an interview with RTL radio, calling it “an expression of intolerance.” He added: “I hope the Swiss come back on this decision.”
Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, described the vote as “an expression of quite a bit of prejudice and maybe even fear.”
Muslim communities within Switzerland reacted cautiously. “We were a bit shocked, we hadn’t expected this result,” Abdel Majri, the president of the League of Swiss Muslims, said in an interview. “This is another step toward Islamophobia in Switzerland and Europe in general.”
The government and most Swiss political parties had opposed the motion, he noted, attributing the size of the majority in favor of the ban to the right wing parties’ campaign that played on popular fears and misconceptions. “We are looking at how we can repair the situation,” he added.
Some Muslims in Europe expressed concern that there would be less understanding of the ban among Muslims living in Islamic countries who are less familiar with European politics and culture. “We are a bit afraid of the rise of extremism on both sides,” said Ayman Ali, secretary general of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe.
Swiss Sharply Criticized After Vote to Ban New Minarets – NYTimes.com