80

Unobserved irony about that Swiss minaret ban

Cosh: ‘When you scratch the surface of the minaret controversy, you pretty much find the Charlottetown accord’


 

No doubt the Swiss voters thought of themselves as striking a blow against “fundamentalist” or “radical” Islam—but the funny thing is that it’s the most radical versions of Islam that are skeptical of objets d’art like minarets, which didn’t become a feature of the Islamic world until nearly a century after the death of the Prophet. Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, the 18th-century iconoclast who gave his name to the “Wahhabist” variety of Sunni Islam, hated the things. To the point of ordering rather a lot of them knocked down.

It goes without saying that when you scratch the surface of the Swiss minaret controversy, you pretty much find the Charlottetown accord—that is, a generic popular revolt against supercilious elites acting in perceived concert. I’m not sympathetic to religious discrimination in anybody’s law, but I am somewhat sympathetic to the Swiss idea of grassroots democracy, and very sympathetic to the Swiss passion for self-determination. My half-informed guess is that if the liberals in Switzerland had been intelligent enough to resist saying “European human-rights law requires us…” over and over, then a local dispute over minarets might not have exploded into a constitutional struggle. And Switzerland would not now find itself resisting Islam as manifested in, of all things, its architecture—i.e., the one artistic aspect of that faith which has surely contributed the most to the mainstream of European civilization.


 

Unobserved irony about that Swiss minaret ban

  1. My half-informed guess is that if the liberals in Switzerland had been intelligent enough to resist saying “European human-rights law requires us…” over and over, then a local dispute over minarets might not have exploded into a constitutional struggle.

    I love how it's always the fault of liberals when bigotry flourishes.

    • I thought you convinced us it was the fault of direct democracy. By the way, we collected enough: your flight to Pyongyang departs Saturday. You're welcome.

    • Colby's post is excellent, and his point is valid. It's not about liberal-bashing, it's about the way a debate unfolds on a hot-button emotional issue.

      As I read it, his point isn't that these liberals are bad or wrong, only that they failed to recognize the nature of the debate itself.

      When "emotion" takes over, the message and messengers become far more important than facts or rational debate. In my opinion, this is tragic, sad and unfortunate, but it's also very true.

      Colby could have just as easily had been speaking about the issue of same sex marriage in Canada, where the social conservatives clearly blew the debate (at the price of public opinion) in a very similar way, i.e. people might have been more sympathetic to traditional marriage if the opponents hadn't rattled on half-crazed about "damnation" and "the Bible" to make their arguments.

  2. It goes without saying that when you scratch the surface of the Swiss minaret controversy, you pretty much find the Charlottetown accord—that is, a generic popular revolt against supercilious elites acting in perceived concert.

    ***
    Not only does this not go without saying, it doesn't appear to be the case at all. This is pandering to xenophobia BY a small group of political elites, pure and simple.

  3. It's almost as though you think liberal and bigot are mutually exclusive terms…

  4. Since Cosh was referring to liberals that didn't support this bigotry they are mutually exclusive terms in this case.

  5. the one artistic aspect of that faith which has surely contributed the most to the mainstream of European civilization.

    The pointed arch was not so much an artistic aspect as a technical innovation.

  6. I don't hold blogs to the same standard as a column or article…but this statement strikes me as odd:

    my half-informed guess is that if the liberals in Switzerland had been intelligent enough to resist saying “European human-rights law requires us…” over and over, then a local dispute over minarets might not have exploded into a constitutional struggle.

    To my uninformed view of the situation, the above statement seems absurd. Perhaps your half-informed self could provide some evidence supporting the statement to my uninformed self, and then we'll both be better off.

    • The cantons with the most support for the ban are also the ones that have the most public opposition Swiss integration with European institutions (like the rejection of the EEA). Citing European law in those cantons would predictably produce the same political result as quoting a United Nations resolution to Texans.

  7. Accept, isn't Cosh's argument that the minaret is an innovation that the most radical Islamists DISLIKE, as contrasted with the burqa, which is an innovation they support?

  8. Well, you know the Canadian Right. It has to normalise bigotry and chauvinism; that is its mission. If fabricating the most specious or tenuous of relationships is what is required, so be it.

  9. Speaking of technological/scientific innovations, if the Swiss really want to stick it to the Muslims they should ban Arabic numerals and algebra. I bet every calculator and many of the revered clocks and watches in Switzerland are sullied by the Islamic influence on Swiss culture.

    12345

    Look at me. Spreading the influence of Islam!!!

  10. Only a western conservative could ever in a million years have such a hackneyed understanding of The Charlottetown Accord.

    You should go back to complaining about the token system for a transit system you never use…at least that bit of navelgazing was harmless.

  11. Roughly where they are now, I imagine… only with less interesting clocks.

  12. Yawn.

  13. "It has to normalise bigotry and chauvinism"

    I feel sorry for people who think like this. According to them, almost forty percent of Canadians are bigots, chauvinist and god know's what else. Many seem to think they are living in country that is one step up from nazi germany when Canada is one of the most tolerant/progressive countries in the world.

    • It may be that 40% of Canadians are bigots. I would place the percentage of Quebecers who are anglophobic at about 40%. And from my years in Alberta in the late 70s and 80s, there were about 40% of Albertans encountered in my day-to-day who displayed bigotted views – let those Eastern bastards freeze in the dark attitude was common, and I stopped counting the number of times I was told to not speak that language. Add to that the number of people who hated having French "rammed down their throats" and you have probably reached 40%. However, I cannot say that they all belong to one political group. But bigotry is one form or another is very much alive in Canada.

  14. "Spreading the influence of Islam!!!"

    The number system you are referring to was created as much by Hindu/India as it was by Arabs.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu-Arabic_numeral

    How can you be a good progressive if you are ignoring cultures and giving credit to where credit is not due.

  15. You mean 'except'.

    I don't think radical Islamists particularly dislike the minaret.

    Cosh said they are 'skeptical' of objects of art. However, I've read that since images of Mohamed, humans and animals are forbidden, intricate artwork is prevalent.

    http://www.colostate.edu/orgs/MSA/find_more/islar

    Because of the strict injunctions against such depictions of humans or animals which might result in idol-worship, Islamic art developed a unique character, utilizing a number of primary forms: geometric, arabesque, floral, and calligraphic, which are often interwoven.

  16. I think the ancient Arabs deserve most of the credit here (more so than the ancient Hindus). After all, it was the Arabs who gave us zero as a digit, which is really quite important, when you think about it.

  17. Was the Charlottetown Accord not defeated by a citizenry that had grown suspicious of the ruling elites, and wary of the things they were trying to sell us??? In fact that's exactly what happened. 9 out of 10 provinces voted to reject it. That includes Ontario and the four Atlantic provinces, as well as the four western ones. Canadians across the country didn't want it. All political parties with seats in Parliament told us we did want it. We voted and let them know different. That's not a "western conservative viewpoint", that's an unassailable fact of history.

    • In case you're ever tempted to write that 9 out of 10 provinces voted to reject the Charlottetown accord, here is the result:

      AlbertaYes 39.8% — No 60.2%
      British Columbia Yes 31.7 — No 68.3
      ManitobaYes 38.4– No 61.6
      New Brunswick Yes 61.8 — No 38.2
      Newfoundland Yes 63.2 — No: 36.8
      Nova Scotia Yes 48.8 — No 51.2
      Ontario Yes 50.1 — No 49.9
      Prince Edward IslandYes 73.9 — No 26.1
      QuebecYes 43.3 — No 56.7
      Saskatchewan Yes 44.7 — No 55.3
      Northwest TerritoriesYes 61.3– No 38.7
      YukonYes 43.7– No 56.3

      The vote was favourable in four out of ten provinces, all East of Manitoba. Lucien Bouchard and Jacques Parizeau led the 'no' side in Quebec where both liberals under Chrétien and Conservatives under Mulroney were pro-Charlottetown. And if 50.1% was good enough to stop Parizeau in 95, it is good enough to my claim that Ontarians approved Charlottetown.

    • Further re suspicion of ruling elite and Charlottetown, it has been documented that Tom Flanagan and Stephen Harper, Reform policy advisors at the time, demanded that Preston Manning oppose Charlottetown without consulting with the "grassroots". Writes Manning: "At this point, I did not fully appreciate that while Stephen was a strong Reformer with respect to our economic, fiscal and constitutional positions, he had serious reservations about Reform's and my belief in the value of grassroots consultation and participation in key decisions.”

      So in the end ruling elites on both the yes and no sides fought it out.

      My recollection of those days is that anything coming from Brian Mulroney was suspicious and viewed as pandering to Quebec.

  18. I don't feel sorry for them, I just dislike them.

  19. "I don't hold blogs to the same standard as a column or article, but you should write a whole column or article about this so I don't have to go form my own opinion"? That's OK, you can just go ahead and decide that I wrote something absurd and save me the trouble.

  20. Canada is one of the most tolerant/progressive countries in the world.

    Almost forty percent of Canadians are trying to change that though.

  21. Oh that's assailable alright. Canadians across the board rejected it, but certainly NOT simply because politicians liked it and we wanted to knock em down offa their perch.

    Maybe burgeoning Reform Party members did, but everybody else had their own reasons for voting against it (and the sheer scope of the Accord meant that there was lots to vote against)

  22. Alas, since I'm not a "conservative", we are obliged to conclude that you don't know what you're talking about. Typical easterner really.

  23. Are you starting to feel jittery and scabious yet? :)

  24. Thanks for the enlightening response. Sorry for hoping to get more informed at a news magazine's website.(You fat city piece, on the other hand, highly informative)

  25. Clearly there is going to be a hazing period before commenters cease introducing their rejoinders and advice with the equivalent of "Dear shaggy-haired fascist/racist redneck National Post refugee from parts unknown" and switch to plain old "Hey idiot". So I'm just trying to run out the clock.

  26. "The concept of zero as a number and not merely a symbol for separation is attributed to India where by the 9th century CE practical calculations were carried out using zero, which was treated like any other number, even in case of division.[9][10] The Indian scholar Pingala (circa 5th-2nd century BCE) used binary numbers in the form of short and long syllables (the latter equal in length to two short syllables), making it similar to Morse code.[11][12] He and his contemporary Indian scholars used the Sanskrit word śūnya to refer to zero or void." Wiki

    It is not all that clear who invented the concept of zero as a digit. It is mixture of Persia and India culture. Also, I think concept of zero predates Islam.

    Lets give Arabs credit for zero, though. So what? This is what's Islam has been like ever since:

    "the total number of books translated into Arabic during the 1,000 years since the age of Caliph Al-Ma'moun [a ninth-century Arab ruler who was a patron of cultural interaction between Arab, Persian, and Greek scholars] to this day is less than those translated in Spain in one year"

    http://www.altalang.com/beyond-words/2009/08/10/a

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/opinion/05fried

  27. Great debunking on the only funny thing in the whole comments thread. Way to go guys.

    • Thank you Dave, for not taking my comment so seriously!

  28. While i'd pretty much agree with your take on Charlottetown. It was nothing like this case, CC is wrong. Here we have a referendum triggered by militant intolerant feminists. [ the irony of Cosh makng cause with is very odd ] The threshold for which was ridiculously low. [ as they always are in populist referenda ] The target…as always a marginal threat, but a good excuse as any for xenophobia i guess.

  29. I really just had the one kernel of intriguing information here (Wahhab thought minarets were potential objects of idolatry and advocated their destruction). The Wikipedia entry "Swiss minaret ban" actually gives a pretty useful sketch of how a town-planning dispute spiralled out of control, and the Swiss cabinet's official statement on the initiative represents the somewhat internationalist rhetoric of the campaign (which failed despite the support of all branches of government, many civil-society groups, and all the major churches)…
    http://www.ejpd.admin.ch/ejpd/en/home/dokumentati

    • Way to stretch yourself thin on the research. No, please, slow down, you'll hurt yourself!

  30. Fortunately we are blessed with multiple and varied time zones.

  31. To me it seems quite clearly a case where the militant intolerant feminists made common cause with what we'd call "social conservatives". (Cf. Canadian obscenity law.) Without checking I recall that the initiative got the strongest support in the half-canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, an inerrant political bellwether in which women didn't even get the vote until about 1976.

    • "Without checking I recall…"

      Again, wow. I think you're not only lowering the standard of print journalism, but you're actually making bloggers look bad.

      Nice work.

  32. "but the funny thing is that it's the most radical versions of Islam that are skeptical of objets d'art like minarets"

    Thanks for this. I was wondering why everyone was getting bent out of shape when only four of the 150 mosques had minarets. They clearly are not vital to mosque design or else they would be on more than 4 of them.

    • Actually what people call Swiss cuckoo clocks are German.

      • My point was that weighted clocks (of which cuckoo clocks are but one variety) were apparently invented by the muslims, according to some sources…

  33. Damn,

    "cuckoo clock"

  34. How? Does the new citizenship guide offend you that badly?

  35. The design of mosques has changed significantly over the years.

    The burka also did not become a feature of Islam until recently. You can say the same about a whole slew of Islamic behaviours. Pretty well everything the Taliban stands for has been a recent addition to Islam.

  36. The political classes were united in their support – outright fanatical support – of the Accord. To the point where they resorted to fear tactics to try and sell it. (Joe Clark warning us of the impending return of FLQ bombings. Numerous PC and Liberal MPs, including such notables as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Liberal MP Paul Martin, hinting that those who opposed it were guilty of treason.) MPs passed it unanimously in Parliament. It was rejected in all provinces but one. If that isn't a major disconnect between the citizenry and the ruling elite, I don't know how else to interpret it.

  37. No argument there…but saying there was a major disconnect between the citizenry and the political establishment is not the same as saying it was "a generic popular revolt against supercilious elites acting in perceived concert."

    Pretty much every analysis I've ever read states that the reason for its failure was because it offered a little of everything to everybody and in doing so didn't do enough to satisfy supporters of each aspect and ensured that it had as many detractors as possible (even those who supported one aspect could find another they didn't)

  38. So let's see what I've read so far:

    1) A couple articles expressing skepticism about climate change (the much ballyhooed "climategate"…Still like Monbiot as much now that he compared Canadian Oil to Japanese Whaling?)
    2) Bemoaning how awful some aspect of life is in Toronto
    3) Blaming liberals for the minaret ban
    4) A couple amusing articles about famous sports celebrities

    I'm sure you have some fine distinction you like to make, that you're a "small government ,right leaning, populist libertarian" or some such thing…but from what you've shown so far, you're a conservative.

  39. And…that alleged popular revolt didn't include much of the MSM, if i recall correctly…which i probably don't as i ceased caring after meech. CC may well have been leading the charge for all i know.

  40. I don't think it's a "generic popular revolt" as it is simply across-the-board Swiss small-mindedness. It's not like the default position of humanity is amity, provoked to grief by supercilious elites or cynical racists. Some nations are just very small-minded. Switzerland leads the pack. Try ordering a café crème in a glass without schnapps in Zurich. They're fanatics for comme il faut.

  41. See, now you're guilty of the same thing. Your quote tells us something about Marlene Jennings, or perhaps of Liberal MPs. Do be more careful with your sweeping generalizations.

  42. Ah the old enemy of my enemy is my friend ploy eh!
    I couldn't care less where it drew it's principle support. When the genisis of the uprising is rooted in fearmongering and xenophobia it'll get no support from me. The whole thing is shameful…i'm reminded of similar shenanigans in Quebec.

  43. Colby's probably a liberal by AB con standards…just kidding…i know lots of Albertan's who can't abide social-clownservatives.

  44. I can't speak for Swiss at home, but in my admittedly limited experience, you called it…small minded…or at least provincial…which may be the same thing really.[ now i'll probably have someone on my tail for being an arrogant liberal…good thing i live in the NWT.]

  45. That's a good explanation. When I first heard about the minarets thing it just didn't compute. Militant secularism I expect in France, and militant xenphobia I expect in Germany, but I couldn't put my finger on what would make the Swiss go for this. Backlash against political correctness actually makes a lot of sense.

    Now if only they'll see the folly of rebelling against political correctness by banning religious symbols, and instead remove themselves from the European pansy-ass state, we'll be getting somewhere.

  46. Really? You asked them?

  47. Well, good point, and some days I think we could give the Hobbits a run for their money, let alone the Swiss. Indeed, the 700-year thing is very much to the point: things have always been the same in Switzerland, the mountains, the clothing, the bed times; and there have never been minarets. It's a miracle anybody converted the place to Christianity.

  48. If we could just get a princess to kiss Crit_Reasoning, I'm sure you'd have good company. He's just down Queen Betty highway a few hours.

    • I just think of you as "That Guy"…

  49. I'm a Darwinian atheist who likes abortion, drugs, and pornography. Conservatives don't even let me in the backyard with their pets. But the confusion is understandable: I mostly write when there's a chance of annoying somebody, so EVERYBODY thinks I'm on the opposite side at all times.

    Toronto's a good case in point; as a visitor I really dig the place, and without it English Canada would stand among civilizations as the cultural equivalent of a Siberian oblast, but what purpose or function, even to Torontonians, would my goopy love letter to Toronto serve? That's a piece I would ONLY be interested in writing for an Alberta audience, which would despise the challenge to its prejudices and consider me a liberal traitor fit only for slow death by livestock hot-shot.

    • That's a piece I would ONLY be interested in writing for an Alberta audience, which would despise the challenge to its prejudices and consider me a liberal traitor fit only for slow death by livestock hot-shot.

      Hey, then you'll jump at a chance to write about the myth of the NEP in Alberta. Here's a YouTube video I have posted here before http://www.youtube.com/user/DotDunster#p/a/u/0/Op… and more material in Potter's latest Linkage blog. Feel free to run with it.

      • Wasn't it also the case that the oil industry in Texas collapsed around the same time? I guess the NEP was responsible for that too?

  50. I understand some of your angst. As a young man, in AB i greatly admired both Trudeau and Lougheed, often at the same time – still do…i've never really recovered.

  51. It's time…it's time…oh! It's time to hate the Swiss!

  52. I was going to suggest shaving your head, but quickly realized that that would invite the obvious "skinhead" references from the progressive crowd.

  53. And…that alleged popular revolt didn't include much of the MSM, if i recall correctly…which i probably don't as i ceased caring after meech. CC may well have been leading the charge for all i know.

  54. I couldn't say it better, except I'm reluctant to use the term "small-mindedness" until the multilingual federation I live in celebrates a 700th birthday.

  55. IF I think of you, I worry about Big Brother and sheep (well, the cute ones). "Two legs good, MaggiesFarmboy baaaaad".

  56. Sorry, Dot, I was referring to Colby.

    Excuse my improper reply ettiquette.

    P.S. I never think of you at all, no offence.

  57. "Three days after Switzerland voted to ban minarets on mosques, enraging the Muslim world, a Libyan court has sentenced two Swiss businessmen to 16 months in prison for violating immigration laws. That could be a coincidence, but I doubt it. It is much more likely to be Colonel Gaddafi's latest act of vengeance against a country that has seriously upset him." The Times, Dec 03 '09

    There is an article in The Times today that looks at heated relationship between Switzerland and Libya at the moment. Author of article does not say there is direct connection but Swiss might have been pissed with Libyans and this was one way to express their displeasure.

  58. It could also be that the Swiss have taken a look at Muslim related problems in Holland, Germany, France and other Europeon nations and are afraid of what they see. They likely interpret Islam as not being benign.

  59. DML has it "dead on". Nothing will come of this as Eurabia is a done deal. Most of Europe will be majority Muslim by 2050. This is merely a "Stick in your eye", from the dying White post Christian Swiss. If they didn't want to become Islamic, why did they allow so much immigration in the first place? The PC elites of Europe couldn't understand basic demographics, whereas native population rates at distinction levels, and importing those at rates up to 10 times higher, you had to know it was going to come about at some point. Now with merely 10% Muslim in France, the Jihad is full out, the politicians know which side their bread is buttered (why placate a dying entity when the one that is taking over is more vocal and follows through on their threats of violence against those that don't adhere. So the question remains and always has:
    "how does the rest of the world solve the problem of [all of] Islam that is fundamentally and inherently violent, has demonstrated this innumerable times over the 1400+ yrs of its tyranny, mixing with gentle people that pride themselves on human rights, decency and fairness for all regardless of race, colour, gender, political persuasion (unless you're a Conservative that is). Can the newcomers be modified enough to be fair and benign to the indigenous hosts? Since Islam cannot be Renaissance(d) as witnessed by the Ahmadiyyah (not considered Islamic any more), it seems that a new round of Inquistion may be the only possible solution to this serious and deadly problem.

    • I was born around the time Neville Chamberlain returned from Nazi Germany proclaiming "peace in our time". Germany had made it perfectly clear that peace would be impossible. I mention this because the excuses and accommodations that well-intentioned liberals give Islam remind me of the 1930's attempts to appease Hitler.

      To enumerate just a few illustrations of Islamic misbehaviour over the last decade, there was the hysterical fuss over the Jyllands-Posten cartoons, the fact that in the UK Scotland Yard has had to set up a special division to investigate "honour" killings, the murder of Theo Van Gogh in Holland, the 9/11 massacre, countless bombings, plots, abductions, threats, and continual whining that Islamists are the victims, not the perpetrators. In view of what Islam actually does in this world, as distinct from what its proponents claims it does, I think Islamophobia (fear of Islam) is a logical position to take. Islamophobia requires a confrontation with a toxic ideology, not the persecution of Moslems.

      Minarets are just symbols, I guess, but just the same I'm glad to hear of measures like banning them or the wearing of hijab, because they suggest a growing awareness of the need to stand up to Islam. Personally I don't care how many Moslems settle in my country. I just want it made clear to them that although they are welcome, there will be no tolerance of Islamic values in our schools, laws or institutions.

      I almost agree with you, A-U, except for that word "Inquisition". Islamophobia requires a confrontation with a toxic ideology, not the persecution of Moslems.

    • And just as we speak about the growing threat that has been witnessed and evidenced in Europe (and elsewhere in the world), the Uber-Socialist L.A. Times has a new story regarding the increasing "radicalization" of MUSLIMS in America.
      http://preview.tinyurl.com/yf47pxe
      Interesting to note that the larger the 'radical' base becomes the smaller the 'moderate' base is and also more fearful of retribution from those radicals and the less likely we will see any co-operation from them turning in their co-religionists for processing under our infamous catch and release program called the "Canadian Criminal Justice System". We are imposing a closed society on Islam by not openly and forcefully supporting the Islamic reformers in their weak – and getting weaker- fight against the fundamentalists.
      Pretty soon they will be another "first Nations" community with special rights (can you say Shariah Law?) and privileges similar to our indigenous one, and of course the mainstream Canadian of course will have to pay the price with lowered security.

      I would be amenable to a wholesale conversion of all Muslims to the Ahmadiyya sect as they are the only Muslims that have demonstrably proven they have reformed and removed (most) of the violence from their religion. Considered non-Muslim and outright Apostates by the remainder Islamists, the punishment for Apostasy is a one time chance to re-convert and repent or DEATH. Welcome to the peaceful world of Islam.

Sign in to comment.