Eclectic Grounds

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Posts Tagged ‘islam

Why did Switzerland decide to ban minarets?

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Some reactions by the victorious camp in favour of the ban on minarets after the referendum on Sunday, 29 October:

“Forced marriages and other things like cemeteries separating the pure and impure – we don’t have that in Switzerland and we don’t want to introduce it.”
Ulrich Schlüer, co-president of the Initiative Committee to ban minarets.

“Society wants to put a safeguard on the political-legal wing of Islam, for which there is no separation between state and religion.”
Oskar Freysinger, member of the Swiss People’s Party and a driving force in the campaign

“People who settle here have to realise that they can’t turn up to work in a head scarf or get special dispensation from swimming lessons.”
Toni Brunner, president of the People’s Party

(all quotes from SwissInfo)

If one listens to its initiators, yesterday’s referendum was not about the construction of new minarets in Switzerland at all. The organizers of the campaign admit quite frankly what was really rejected: their image of a Muslim religion and culture and what they perceive as an assault on Swiss values.

With only four minarets existing in the country is hard to argue that the referendum is justified. Yet, the campaign poster speaks a clear language where minarets are used symbolically for a hostile attack: missile-sharp minarets riddle a Swiss flag. The rationale behind the campaign is “a” culturally pure Switzerland and “a” hostile culture of Islam.

So as of Sunday, the Swiss have joined the exclusive club of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan as the world’s only countries that have laws which to prohibit the construction of towers on religious buildings (In S.A. and Afghanistan, it’s Christian churches though). With the outcome and implementation of the ban, Switzerland breaches the European Convention on Human Rights and is likely to face expulsion from the Council of Europe.

Just to be clear: a debate concentrated on issues (dispensation from swimming lessons, head scarfs, etc) is necessary for communities as a negotiation of shared communal values. However, in such debates the majority often drifts of to racial and cultural stereotyping of minorities. It looks as if the anti-minaret campaign is the most extreme example of this in a European country to date.

The question that the organisers of the winning side will have to ask themselves is whether their success will really help their goal of driving back “traditional Islam” and the construction of “parallel societies”.

The campaign has highlighted a massive stigma of Muslims in Switzerland as culturally inferior and ultimately unwanted. On top of that, Muslims will now be more marginalised than ever before. Discrimination will no longer be limited to the social level but also reflected in the legal structure as soon as the words ‘the construction of minarets is prohibited’ will enter article 72 of the Swiss constitution.

With this decision, the liberal and integrated majority of Muslims in Switzerland is under attack and extremist groups will gain momentum. If the initiators of the referendum were genuinely interested in the integration of religious and ethnic minorities they would see the outcome of their campaign as a catastrophe.

Can Germany ‘afford’ a gay foreign minister? Or will it hurt relations with Muslim countries?

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– two often-debated questions in Germany after the recent federal elections. Following the victory of the conservative-liberal coalition, it is customary for the head of the smaller coalition party (the liberals) to become vice chancellor and foreign minister.

The head of the liberals is Guido Westerwelle. Now, in my opionion, there is a lot that is wrong with Westerwelle becoming FM: Be it his inexperience and previous indifference to international affairs, his political stance and style, as well as his apparent gaucheness on the international stage.

The more central question for many commentators, however, seems to be whether Westerwelle as an openly homosexual political can represent Germany as a Foreign Minister in Muslim countries.

Why wouldn’t he?

Diplomacy is probably the most pragmatic policy field. Quite regularly, countries or groups who are in the midst of the fiercest political conflicts, still maintain diplomatic relations. Just think of the close political contact of the US and the USSR throughout the Cold War, despite their existential ideological battle. You see the point: diplomacy is about interests and therefore mostly blind to ideology.

Why would that be any different with two countries that maintain friendly relations like, say, Germany and Saudi Arabia? Simply because of the sexual orientation of one country’s representative? Should the Saudi foreign minister be criticised at home for shaking the hand of a homosexual, his answer would simply be: do you want to jeopardize trade relations with one of our most important partners?

A statement from an official of the Turkish foreign ministry seems to confirm this. He told the Turkish paper Milliyet that, while there is no rule of protocol in case Westerwelle as German FM would bring his partner, “a middle way will be found”.

As much as I disagree with Westerwelle representing my country from a political point of view, I would love to see his appointment create some cracks the foundation of the alleged Gay/Muslim faultline.

“Sharia courts” in Europe – what’s your opinion?

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Should “sharia courts” (i.e. Muslim laws within the legal framework of the state) be allowed?

A sensationalist question, but a more sober discussion in the English version of NRC Handelsblad.

Find the pro side here: “Let Muslims have their sharia court
and the con side here: “Help Muslims escape the tyranny of sharia law

I think this is a valuable and fair discussion on the limits of secular societies – as long as it does not resort to the bashing of Muslims using the buzzword “sharia”, and Islam is treated equally to other religions. As one of the authors notes:

So even if the Muslim community in the Netherlands wanted sharia courts, it would be difficult to deny them this privilege, given that Catholics and Jews have their own ‘courts’ too. And Catholic and Jewish courts also have rules that contradict Dutch law: the Catholics don’t allow divorce, and the Jews require the man’s permission for divorce.

What’s your opinion? What do you think of the arguments put forth?

Written by henrik

July 10, 2009 at 6:23 pm

“Islamism” – identifying trends & deconstructing myths

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In an essay published at Conflicts Forum, AU Beirut Professor A. Moussalli deconstructs different discourses on modern Islamic thought often identified as “Islamism”. His focus is on Wahabism, salafism and Islamism.

In the introduction, Moussalli writes:

Understanding these trends and their discourses will allow world powers, policymakers, academicians, intellectuals, terrorism experts, journalists, and many others to distinguish between and understand the logic of the radical and the moderate, the active and the inactive, the jihadi and the peaceful, the takfiri and the tolerant, the modern and the traditional, and the rational and irrational. This essay will also clarify the terminology used chaotically by different policy-makers, analysts, journalists, academicians, and intellectuals. 

Find the full article here.

The discourse on Muslim veils in Britain

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Golam Khiabany writes in Race & Class about the current British media discourse on Muslim women and the veil as one of “new othodoxy.” 

From the abstract:

The increased visibility of veiled bodies in Britain today has stirred a response that draws on long-standing orientalist oppositions and reworks them in the current climate of the `war on terror’, connecting them to parallel racist discourses about `threats’ to British culture. Sections of the British media have homogenised the variety of Muslim veiling practices and have presented the veil as an obstacle to meaningful `communication’; an example of Islamic `refusal’ to embrace `modernity’. Veiled women are considered to be ungrateful subjects who have failed to assimilate and are deemed to threaten the `British’ way of life. 

Via Context Discoveries

Muslim ‘hate monger’ preaches peace

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There has been considerable controversy about a speech by Khalid Yasin at the Islamic University Rotterdam over the last few days. The Islamic lecturer is a notorious figure who in the past was quoted saying that, according to the Qu’ran, homosexuality was an immorality punishable by death, and also that the US was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the development of the AIDS virus. Before his speech yesterday, some politicians in the Netherlands demanded from the government to deny Yasin entry into the country.

Quite surprisingly then, his actual message was one of peace and understanding between Muslims and Non-Muslims. He did condemn Geert Wilders and the likes but he also had a message directed at Dutch Muslims.

The NRC Handelsblad quotes this sections from his speech about Muslim youth in the Netherlands:

Yasin, who converted to Islam after being inspired by Malcolm X, expressed criticism for the Dutch Muslim community, which he said is not doing well. No wonder, then, that Dutch people talk about “those Moroccan youths,” according to Yasin. He also criticised pious, fundamentalist Muslims. “Don’t be so full of your own righteousness. Islam is not a religion of hermits.”

He also called for integration efforts and understanding between believers and non-believers:

Indeed, he said, “Western society offered Muslims the best possibilities for development.” He said, paraphrasing John F. Kennedy, “This nation wants to know what one million Dutch Muslims can do for their country.” He also warned Dutch Muslim youth: “Don’t come to me with the nonsense that you won’t obey the kafirs (non-believers).”

This is not to forget Yasin’s previous remarks about homosexuals, but it has to be said that it is quite refreshing to have a Muslim authority speaking so self-critically and with such candour to Muslims. Where are Muslim voices from within Europe who speak in this way? I have met some personally. But either they are not heard in the Muslim community or they are ignored by the media.

Update (2-2-09): The blog ‘Salafi Burnout’ has an interesting discussion on Yasin here, on his alleged scams, his conspiracy theories and on how he is seen by Muslim communities in the US, Australia and Britain.