Swiss minaret ban ‘extreme Islamophobia’
Jamaat-e-Islami hold a protest in Pakistan. The party stated that this ban ‘reflects extreme Islamophobia among people in the West.’ – APP (File Photo)
ISLAMABAD, Monday, 30 Nov, 2009, updated Wesnesday, 02 Dec, 2009 : Pakistani religious groups on Monday condemned a referendum in Switzerland that saw voters approve a ban on the construction of mosque minarets, calling it ‘extreme Islamophobia.’
Switzerland on Sunday voted in favour of a ban on new mosque minarets – the towers or turrets attached to mosques from which Muslims are traditionally called to prayer – prompting dismay and anger in the Muslim world.
‘This development reflects extreme Islamophobia among people in the West,’ said Khurshid Ahmad, vice president of Jamaat-e-Islami, a Islamic political party that is represented in Pakistan’s parliament.
‘This also represents very serious discrimination against Muslims.’ Pakistan is the world’s second most populous Muslim nation.
The far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) had forced a referendum after collecting a mandatory 100,000 signatures from eligible voters.
Conservative Swiss politicians argued that the minarets were not architectural features with religious characteristics, but symbolised a ‘political-religious claim to power, which challenges fundamental rights.’
Ahmad described the Swiss decision as a serious violation of human rights and international law, telling AFP: ‘This is an effort to provoke Muslims and prompt a clash between Islam and the West.’
Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for Islamic charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa – accused of being a front for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba radical insurgent group – also decried the referendum as a blow for inter-faith harmony.
‘This new decision violates the principles of mutual understanding and religious tolerance,’ Mujahid said.
‘The West never takes respite in claiming to be champions of religious tolerance and inter-faith harmony, but this latest decision shows their bias against Muslims,’ he added.
Far-right politicians across Europe celebrated the results, while the Swiss government sought to assure the Muslim minority that a ban on minarets was ‘not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture.’
Having won a majority on turnout of 53 per cent, the initiative will now be inscribed in the country’s constitution.
UN rep Asma Jahangir warns Swiss over minaret ban
‘I therefore urge the Swiss authorities to abide by all its international obligations and to take the necessary measures to fully protect the right to freedom of religion or belief of members of the Muslim community,’ said Asma Jahangir, UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
‘As also stated by the United Nations Human Rights Committee a month ago, such a ban is contrary to Switzerland’s obligations under international human rights law,’ the statement released by the United Nations added.
In a referendum on Sunday, more than 57 per cent of voters approved a right wing proposal to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland.
The vote had no impact on mosques themselves or religious worship, according to the Swiss government, which had opposed the ban.
However, Jahangir insisted that a ban marked ‘clear discrimination’ against Switzerland’s Muslim community.
‘I have deep concerns at the negative consequences that the outcome of the vote will have on the freedom of religion or belief of members of the Muslim community in Switzerland.’
‘Indeed, a ban on minarets amounts to an undue restriction of the freedom to manifest one’s religion and constitutes a clear discrimination against members of the Muslim community in Switzerland,’ she added.
The 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Switzerland has ratified along with 164 other countries, obliges governments to protect and respect freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The Swiss Green Party has also said that it was considering an appeal against the ban to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Swiss People’s Party, the country’s biggest political group and the only mainstream force to back the ban, warned Monday that it would rather pull out of international treaties than submit to a UN or European decision.
Although it captured some 28 per cent of the vote in the last general election, the right wing SVP cannot command a parliamentary majority on its own.
Freedom of worship is one of the cornerstones of Switzerland’s founding constitution.
|Will Saudi Arabia allow construction of Cathedrals to challenge Swiss ban on minarets ? Nazir Bhatti|
|Karachi: November 30, 2009. (PCP) Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC expressed surprise on statement of Pakistani representatives in UNHRC expressing concern on Swiss vote ban on construction of minarets on mosques and other Islamic institutions in Switzerland when construction of new Churches in Pakistan has to follow strict government guidelines which prohibits one furlong from existing mosque and use of loudspeakers.
Nazir Bhatti said “ Christ The King processions and other open rituals have been banned in public places from decades but not any Muslim human right activists have raised voice against government actions to damage true spirit of religious freedom in Pakistan but their protests in name of human right against Swiss government vote to ban minarets is index of substandard”
In a statement released by PCC Central office here today also urged Saudi Arabia to allow construction of Churches in kingdom to challenge Swiss ban on minarets.
“The Human Right activists around world shall raise voice to press upon Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries in Middle East to permit construction of Cathedrals and ensure religious freedom for Christian minorities” added Nazir S Bhatti
Meanwhile news agency Reuters have reported that unexpected vote and high turnout in Sunday’s referendum gives a boost to the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), a relatively new political force that has shaken up the country’s traditionally cozy power-sharing system.