30 November 2009

updating Swiss laws

The Swiss

Looks like one argument being accused of the "for" banning minarets is feminist organisations in Switzerland. I'm not sure how vehement they were in France behind the burqa ban there, but indeed many anti-Islamic factions do adhere to some sort of feminist philosophy (similarly there are many such factions with significant opposition to Christianity, for much the same reasons of course. Some of which are quite legitimate concerns regarding patriarchal demands upon women without consensual, either implied or affirmed, arrangements). I don't think that this argument, that the legal use of minarets is a creeping version of shariah law that will terminate in burqas being imposed on Swiss women, is so convincing that it could and did sway millions of voters. Something did, and it might indeed have swayed some women in Switzerland by the appearance of polling data (or this could have merely been a pre-arranged bias by Swiss women as a whole against Islamic traditions). This wasn't a smoking gun explanation for me.

I don't follow the ability of a ban on architectural design or even a noise ordinance constraint (which they did not need or attempt) would matter and cast the Swiss people down some slippery slope to Arabian fundamentalist laws that most Muslim communities do not seek to subscribe to anyway (see: most of SE Asian Muslims, Thailand separatists being a critical exception, and most American or Canadian Muslims even living classically within ethnic and religious enclaves like in Hamtramck). This still seems mostly like intolerance and fear mongering, which are not justifications for restrictions on liberties. Even the liberties I disagree with or find otherwise flawed and wacky, like the freedoms of religious worship, I find myself compelled to defend against such defamation and stupefying intolerance from majority rules which do not comprehend them. Where those religious practices infringe upon other individual liberties, such as by repressing women or freedom of speech or commanding the political will of other religious and secular associations, I find sufficient reasons to oppose them. Constructing a mosque is no more offensive to me than the construction of a church or a synagogue or even the erection of Christmas trees by city officials. Big fucking deal.

In other words, I still don't understand what the basis for the law was. It was further argued that there was a grievance over the Swiss government's dealings with international state and non-state actors involved in terrorism, which is fine as far as that goes as a grievance. But I still don't see how that should lead the Swiss populace to conclude that they should penalize Muslims living within Switzerland. Seems like their elected officials would be the problem. Quite frankly, even if that argument is plausible as a justifiable reason, the case and manner in which it was made there, not so much (that is: by complaining about Iranian political figures and imams being slimy amoralists with links to terrorism and somehow linking this as an action some years old to modern Swiss thinking that was hidden by polling data prior to the referendum and suggesting that the Swiss are responding and reacting to some sort of internal fears over Islamic radicals within their borders rather than from without doesn't seem like a productive chain of reason to make the case.)

We did the same sort of thing through the 60s, 70s, and 80s with a variety of terrorist organs in the Middle East, including the state actors of Saddam Hussein and the precursors of the Afghani troubles (including Bin Laden). It's not exactly a new form of dissatisfaction with secret government acts that protect their internal state and external corporate business at the expense of others. Really, this practice of extortion and terrorism goes back to Attila or the Barbary Pirates. So while we might certainly find it abhorrent for nation-states to do shady backroom deals with unpleasant characters, it's not exactly a 'hold the presses' news story.

And it's certainly not worth the public attempting to take out that frustration on a disinterested and politically disenfranchised third party (in this case, immigrant Muslims in Switzerland). It looks like it'll probably be overturned by appeals to Swiss or European courts and previous laws and restrictions on religious freedom anyway as there is no danger to public safety or health that the architectural design of a mosque poses (just as there isn't for a cathedral or church bell tower), nor is it somehow a dangerous symbol of "religious superiority", another argument of "creeping shariah". Nor is a church design somehow a religiously significant structure either under the argument that a minaret is somehow a pernicious use of Islamic creed (note that churches do not all thus subscribe to the same design and nor do all mosques or other Islamic community symbols), and as such, cathedrals and churches could be argued against as the same sort of political message of supremacy when they are removed from otherwise historical value or a bland office building design (there I go again, demanding that people seek religious equality if only to protect their own religious institutions against creeping governmental agency). It is plausible that a burqa might be such a symbol, if it were imposed as a requirement against the consent and willingness of women who must wear them, and that a campaign against clothing regulation on the part of religious authorities might be appropriate. Though not, in my opinion, by instituting a comparable government ban in the opposite direction and sentiment. Far be it for me to disagree with a French idea....
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