Today, the people of Switzerland voted in a public referendum to ban the construction of minarets in their country. Yes, the Swiss, those bastions of neutrality and tolerance, have made it illegal to top a mosque with its traditional prayer tower. As argued by the political parties behind its promotion, this step was necessary in order to lessen the influence of Islam on Swiss culture. I know, right? WTF? I couldn’t believe it. And check out their charming campaign poster:
Those don’t look like bombs at all, and the whole poster definitely doesn’t play on sensationalist fears…
Well, the New York Times wrote a predictably sympathetic piece that includes some intelligently outraged quotes from prominent Muslims and certain members of the Swiss government. It paints the decision as a step backwards in the global progression towards religious tolerance and freedom. That article was published online today, and I generally agree with its sentiment.
Also published today, completely unrelated, is another piece, this one by Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com, detailing the history of Thomas Friedman’s slightly less sympathetic collection of columns in the New York Times on the issues of Muslims and their freedoms. It’s worth reading if, like me, you’ve never taken Friedman seriously enough to discover how much of a zealot he was during the Bush administration and how much of that zealotry remains today. I thought he was a pop-science-environmentally-friendly-Dr-Phil lookalike. Whoops
I don’t really have much of a thesis to present here or a point to make… I was just surprised to learn these off-putting facts about such a famous journalist and foreign policy expert (Friedman, that is) and wanted to share them. Also, while I make it no secret that I am in favor of a lessening of religious influence on American culture, this vote in Switzerland depresses me, the same way it would if they had outlawed crosses on top of churches (so don’t think I just pick on the American religious right because they’re such easy targets!). The coincidence of reading these different articles left me confused, and wanting to hear other people’s perspectives on them, so please let me know what you think.
Furthermore, some of the comments on the Times article make me uneasy- people saying that this seemingly anti-freedom movement is actually a victory for women and homosexuals and other groups that are oppressed by most branches of Islam. Lessen oppression by oppressing others? That doesn’t seem to add up properly, yet the concern about the “Islamicazation” of Europe seems to be growing and is not necessarily appropriately ignored.
I’ll leave it at this: it makes me uneasy.