The minaret ban hits the Swiss headlines

The surprise vote clearly dominated the Swiss newspapers

Sunday's clear decision by Swiss voters to ban further construction of minarets in the country has sent shockwaves around Switzerland and elsewhere.

This content was published on November 30, 2009 - 12:25

In Switzerland, there seems to be a general concern in the media that the vote (57.5 per cent in favour of the ban) could lead to reprisals from Muslims.

The Fribourg newspaper La Liberté says Switzerland might have to pay for a "democratic luxury".

"At a time when there are so many other challenges, including the economic crisis, the conflict with Libya and also the disappearance of banking secrecy, let's hope the price to pay will not be exorbitant."

The Corriere del Ticino also cites Libya, saying that fear of Islamic fundamentalism had added fuel to the fire.

"Over the last few months the Swiss have also felt the arrogance of a Muslim tyrant like Gaddafi who keeps two of our citizens as hostages and has called for Switzerland to be eliminated from the world map."

The Tribune de Genève echoes many other newspaper opinions by arguing that the vote was a "yes" related to fear of Islam. Geneva was one of only four of the 26 Swiss cantons to vote against the initiative of the right. The three others were Vaud, Basel City and Neuchätel.

The Basler Zeitung, among others, makes the point that the vote was not about the construction of minarets in Switzerland.

"Gut feelings"

"This weekend gut feelings decided [the result]: these include resentment over the lack of willingness to integrate by some migrants, the widespread fear of the spread of foreign cultures and the fear that the Swiss Christian culture could be under threat."

The mass-circulation Blick newspaper of Zurich comments that the vote was a "big slap in the face" for the government and most political parties that had opposed the ban.

It asks whether there will now be a big debate in the country about Islam. Blick sums it up this way: "Clear vote, unclear consequences".

One of its commentators notes that Swiss exporters will now have to beware, explaining that they exported goods worth SFr14.5 billion ($14.49 billion) last year to Muslim countries, seven per cent of total exports.

"After the 'yes' vote to the minaret initiative, there is now a fear of boycotts."

Le Temps of Geneva does not mince its words. It comments that the future will decide if the up-till-now peaceful relations between Swiss and Muslims will deteriorate after "this brutal sign of hostility".

"The Muslims of Switzerland do not deserve the injustice of this sanction brought on by fear, fantasies and ignorance.

"Not against mosques"

"But let's keep in mind that the Swiss voted against minarets and not against mosques."

L'Express of Neuchâtel was much harsher in its criticism.

Its headline read: "A vote against Islam". It accused the Swiss of showing irrationality and intolerance.

"Yesterday's vote ended with the most xenophobic result in several decades... a xenophobia based on fear... It's a fear that may appear unfounded when you realise that the vast majority of Muslims are perfectly integrated into our country."

Le Matin of Lausanne said the weekend vote had shown that for many people, Islam could be summed up by "extremists with beards, women wearing a burka and imams calling on the faithful to wage a holy war".

The Journal du Jura has a headline on its editorial that reads: "An own goal of fear" and criticises the confusion that reigns about the Muslim population of Switzerland and the "religious fundamentalism which is affecting the world".

Zurich's Neue Zürcher Zeitung explained that public discussion in Switzerland had gone as far as calling the fears over minarets a "clash of cultures". Debate was a question of the "advance of Islam" and was mainly against "Islamists prepared to use violence".

It added: "Our diplomats will have their work cut out."

Swiss Roman Catholic theologian Hans Küng told the (Bern) Bund newspaper of his concerns, arguing the decision would have a high cost for Switzerland.
The 81-year-old said the good integration of Muslims in Switzerland was now in danger.

"As a Swiss abroad I was always proud of my country. The latest catastrophic developments for its image - for example banking secrecy - now culminate in this incomprehensible acceptance of an initiative, which not only goes against religious freedom, but also against tolerance that is so prized in Switzerland."

Robert Brookes,

Key facts

Minaret ban - final results:
57.5% yes
42.5% no
Turnout: 53.4%
Four cantons carried out trials with e-voting. The Swiss abroad registered in Geneva and Basel City were also taking part in the scheme.

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In brief

Switzerland has become the first European country to ban the construction of minarets.

The proposal was launched by members of the rightwing Swiss People's Party and the ultra conservative Federal Democratic Union.

The initiative came in response to opposition by conservative groups at a local level against applications to build a minaret next to a mosque.

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