Swiss politicians and media have expressed condemnation and shock over the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando in which a gunman opened fire, killing at least 50 people and wounding dozens.
“Switzerland condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist acts that struck Orlando yesterday, and extends its sincere condolences to the families and relatives of the victims of this tragedy,” said Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter on Monday, speaking at the opening of the Human Rights Council’s June session in Geneva.
“We must continue our fight and prevent terrorism in order to defend our citizens and our freedoms,” he added.
Many Swiss newspapers drew parallels between Sunday’s attack in Orlando – the worst mass shooting in modern US history – and that at Paris’s Bataclan concert hall in November, when 89 people were killed. Islamic State have claimed responsibility for both massacres.
“These comparisons are necessary in order to understand the scope and consequences of the Orlando bloodbath. ‘Orlando’ will soon become a symbol for the ever-present threat posed by attackers and how in need of protection American citizens are,” wrote the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ).
“In particular, looking ahead to the presidential elections in November, Sunday should represent a watershed, with a ‘before’ and ‘after’ in America. Commentators have been saying for ages that a serious attack would have a massive influence on the outcome of the election.”
The NZZ noted that Republican candidate Donald Trump could benefit most from the attack. “After the attack in San Bernardino in California, Trump called for a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the United States. The current case shows how pointless that would be: the attacker was an American citizen.”
The French language paper Le Temps said that further “lone wolf“ attacks like the one in Orlando would help Trump's divisive discourse find fertile ground and boost his presidential campaign. It also pointed out that the Islamic State had unintentionally become Trump's best ally.
“If America elects Donald Trump in 2016, it will give legitimacy to the clash of civilisations theory,“ said the paper. “The leaders of Islamic State couldn't ask for more.“
The Blick newspaper agreed that, like the Bataclan, the Orlando nightclub had been selected intentionally.
“Joie de vivre, hedonism, exuberance, equal treatment whatever your gender, origin, beliefs – that embodies everything that misanthropes detest. For us, it embodies everything that makes us who we are: a liberal society that stipulates where necessary and makes diversity possible,” it wrote.
The French language paper Tribune de Genève commented on how intolerance and violence had become the currency of those who preach hate. It referred to the explosion of a small bomb in Illinois last week in a Target store lavatory, allegedly as a response to the retailer's transgender-friendly lavatory policy.
One thing is certain, it wrote: hatred of all kinds feed themselves. "This includes Islamic State against the West, Donald Trump and others against Muslims, conservatives of all stripes against people they consider moral deviants, with homosexuals at the forefront."
The NZZ wrote that it would not be easy to deal with the lone wolf problem. The paper concluded that it might be tempting to believe that simple solutions exist to complex problems such as radicalised citizens, “but challenges like that require sophisticated answers and, possibly, patience. The coming months will show whether Americans are ready for that”.
Referring to the 9/11 terror attacks, the German language paper Tages-Anzeiger wrote that it is not just the terrorist attacks that define an era but also the response to such heinous acts. It warned that choosing Trump for president as a response would be the “disaster after the disaster that struck the country in Orlando”.
Ceremonies in tribute to the victims of the Orlando massacre have been held in the Swiss cities of Zurich, Bern and Lausanne. In Zurich a vigil was held at a church by the organisers of the Zurich Pride Festival with the city's mayor in attendance.
In Bern, people gathered outside the US embassy to pay their respects to the victims and the US ambassador also participated. In Lausanne, people gathered at the Place de l'Europe square to express their solidarity.
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