Pushing Muslims to the wall
EUROPE’S NEW DIVIDE
Banning the construction of minarets, and prohibiting women from using burkas in Switzerland is a violent form of secularism. It only undermines the entire history of Europe, writes Mansoor Ali.
The Swiss vote saying 'yes' to banning the construction of minarets has sparked off a debate all over world, whether extreme right or secular left is the public opinion on Islam equally hostile? The posters of the party that launched the minaret campaign in Switzerland, show white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag, crows shredding the Swiss flag into bits and minarets shaped like missiles with burqa clad figures. In neighboring France, where church bells are not allowed to ring for prayer services but only to indicate the time, secularism means religion has to be understated and kept out of matters of the state. But some feel that the secular opinion, instead of being neutral, could also be turning hostile to Muslims living in Europe The Swiss vote is not just being seen as a huge triumph of the extreme right in Europe, but also raising concerns that the idea of secularism where neutrality is seen as progressive is perhaps also being used as a tool to challenge Muslim identity, pushing Muslims living in Europe into a tight corner.
Most EU officials and diplomats recognise the importance of implementing successful integration, anti-racist and anti-discrimination policies. However, the EU’s focus when it comes to dealing with European Muslims has been on security and counter-terrorism. Anti-discrimination policies get lost in the maze of measures being enforced to combat radicalisation, especially of young men of Muslim descent as well as laws banning articles of clothing such as headscarves. Meanwhile, a spate of books and articles some published in the US or by Americans —warn that secular Europe is giving way to ‘Eurabia’, a mythical and nightmarish place where Muslims will impose the Sharia, where stoning adulterers and gay people will be rampant and where women will only go out on the streets dressed in burkas. Switzerland is the first European country to ban minarets; the only supporters of this decision were extremist right-wing parties. It is expected that extremist right-wing parties in Denmark, Austria, France, Italy and the Netherlands will bring up the issue of banning minarets as well. It is clear that the main issue at hand is prejudice towards Muslims and even all minorities. If modern countries, together with the Swiss public and authorities, do not take a stand against this issue and do what is necessary to overcome its effects, as our minister of foreign affairs stated, the issue will grow like an avalanche and start a cultural cold war. Civilization is not a tool enabling the strong to oppress the weak. On the contrary, it should serve as a tool to balance the right to a humane existence between the strong and the weak. Humankind has been witness to lamentable situations where the strong oppressed the weak. So as not to give an opportunity to these events, the global community has to be sensitive for the sake of fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The construction of minarets is a right - one that bears no effect whatsoever on the vast majority of the Swiss people. By voting to ban this right, it is Swiss - and Western - values which become poorer and less meaningful. The only way forward is for a realisation that Europe is not built solely on a Judeo-Christian heritage, but that Muslims too have played a vital and significant role in shaping modern day Europe through contributions of culture, arts, politics, law, theology, science, medicine and dozens of other disciplines. There must be a realisation too that the 30 million or so European Muslims have become part of the European social fabric, through an invaluable contribution which they have made over decades if not for centuries. By singling them out as suspects and potential enemies within, European societies are creating wide-spread instability and future uncertainty for everyone on the social, economic and political levels.
For a Europe that still commemorates the tragedies that occurred when it played host to a concerted attack on one of its own communities nearly 70 years ago, it is a serious over-sight and a case of horrific negligence to allow the same to happen again, only against a different victim. 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 Europe.
(The writer is a media student and can be mailed at email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 12 Jan 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 12 Jan 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Jan 2010 00:00:00 IST
- MORE FROM OP-ED
SMC's SECOND ATTEMPT
After years of slumber over the alarming dog menace in the summer capital, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation has decided to do exactly what during previous experiment brought failure: sterilize dogs.& More
HARMEET SINGH/DANISH NABI
Jammu/Srinagar, Jan 12: Works in almost all the government departments including schools, colleges and hospitals remained paralysed on Tuesday in view of the one day pen-down/tool-down strike call given More
- GK Business
Jammu, Jan 12: In its endeavour to do something innovative Hotel Jammu Ashok has come up with ‘Dining in Shikara’ – A synchronization of various elements giving an exclusive dining experience.Addressing More