My compatriots’ vote to ban minarets is fuelled by fear

“The Swiss have voted not against towers, but Muslims. Across Europe, we must stand up to the flame-fanning populists”

Analysis of readers comments on the above Guardian Cif post by Tariq Ramadan 29 November 2009 – See full post here

878 people made comments on this post, a very large number for a Cif post indicating the keen and widespread interest in this issue.

Very large numbers also voted on these comments, and without a doubt they overwhelmingly support the Swiss and criticise strongly Mr Ramadan’s views, in many cases, with considerable contempt.

If any European politicians are reading this they should be paying careful attention!

We give below an analysis of the votes (nearly 14,000) given to the top 100 vote scoring comments.

Sample chart

The voting is also shown in this table.

Votes for Comments
Number %
For the Swiss, against Mr Ramadan 11,664 85.8
Neutral, unclassifiable 1159 8.5
In support of Mr Ramadan 777 5.7
Totals 13,600 100.0

Extracts from typical top scoring comments are given below.

wotever – 425 votes
Maybe it’s not fear. … perhaps it’s a reasonably considered vote against Islam and what it appears, to many Swiss people, to stand for?

DougallTheDog – 664
[Ramadan said][Over the last two decades Islam has become connected to so many controversial debates – violence, extremism, freedom of speech, gender discrimination, forced marriage, to name a few – it is difficult for ordinary citizens to embrace this new Muslim presence as a positive factor.]

I know. You think people would be queuing up wouldn’t you.

You forgot the violent homophobia and the death threats to apostates, cartoonists, authors and film makers.

DrBrianStephens – 457
Jolly good show to the swiss!

corrocamino – 191
…. The minarets represent change. Non-assimilation. …. It’s in everybody’s face. If everyone practised their personal rituals, if any, at home, in private, and took pains otherwise to fit in with the everyday secular world in which they wish to prosecute a peaceful, cooperative life, this wouldn’t be the big problem that it is.

amibothered – 392
…. Why is it right that relative newcomers and the elite ride rough-shod over the indigenous people’s worries?

selfpreservation – 520
The Swiss did the right thing …. Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow churches or non Muslims into Mecca, yet no one has touched on that one…..Good one Swiss….The only ones in the EU/UK who have balls.

zombus – 486
Does an amplified call to prayer issue from Swiss minarets so many times a day? If so, I wouldn’t want to live across from one. I dare say a lot of Swiss would be of the same opinion.

monnraker – 173
Maybe TR doesn’t see that nobody wants to know about the “new visibility of European Muslims”. Most people in western societies don’t give a damn about their friends’, colleagues’, neighbours’, or anybody else’s religion.

So we really don’t like Muslims to be “positively visible”, we want them to be as invisible as EVERYBODY ELSE ….

…. it’s about violence, extremism, gender discrimination, forced marriage, honour killings, halal meat, separate schools, Sharia law, changes in benefit rules so that one man can have two wives claiming benefits, special allowances regarding mortgage interest, and so on.

TR says that “Islam is a Swiss and a European religion and that Muslim citizens are largely ‘integrated'”. It doesn’t look like it in my town, they prefer to keep themselves apart and don’t really integrate at all.

physiocrat – 178
…. Many countries, like the Scandinavian ones, accepted that they had a duty to accept refugees from troubled countries. Most of these refugees assimilated perfectly well, such as the Vietnamese, Greeks and South Americans. Muslims seem not to have done nearly so well.

Places with concentrations of Muslims, such as the town Landskrona the suburb of Rosengård in Malmö have become notorious trouble spots, which has not helped to create the feeling that Muslims are good neighbours.

Of course this vote is not a verdict on the aesthetics of minarets – it is an expression of concern about the spread of Islam. Is it so surprising that people should react in this way? I don’t know about Switzerland, but in Sweden, immigrants other than Muslims have integrated themselves and been well accepted, so this reaction cannot be dismissed as racism.

Welloilbeefhooked – 267
Mr Ramadan in keeping with the deep rooted sense of victimhood that his religion clings to under estimates what has truly happened in Switzerland. Millions of decent native Europeans have valid concerns about Islamic values and beliefs.

They can no longer be silenced by the ubiquitous cries of “Racist!”, “Islamophobe!”, “Bigot!” etc that are used only to shut down any legitimate criticism of Islam.

…. With this important victory in Switzerland I only hope the rest of Europe demands of its own politicians the right to vote on other vital issues as Sharia Courts, the wearing of Burqas, and the public funding of Islamic schools and institutions

HarryFlashman – 144
[Ramadan said] [Every European country has its specific symbols or topics through which European Muslims are targeted. In France it is the headscarf or burka; in Germany, mosques; in Britain, violence; cartoons in Denmark; homosexuality in the Netherlands – and so on]

Can anyone please explain to me what this brain warping piece of garbage actually means?

Who exactly was “targeted” by violence in Britain? The Muslims? Or were they not the ones doing the targeting?

WahineAoteoroa – 158
…. I don’t think the Swiss supported the ban because they dislike Muslims. I think they supported the ban because they fear the ideology of Islam and the aggressive tactics modern Islam uses to assert its tenets of religious supremacy over non-Muslims.

…. Because Islam has never modernised and still lives in the thinking of past centuries which it seeks to impose on the modern world I think that we are right to fear it, and to contain it, before it overtakes us and we lose all the human rights democratic countries fought so hard for.

peitha – 166
[Ramadan said][Over the last two decades Islam has become connected to so many controversial debates – violence, extremism, freedom of speech, gender discrimination, forced marriage, to name a few – it is difficult for ordinary citizens to embrace this new Muslim presence as a positive factor.]

I wonder how that has happened, don’t you Mr. Ramadan?

D’you suppose it could be something to do with bombs on buses, trains and aircraft, aircraft being flown into buildings, book burnings, riots and people being killed over a few cartoons, stonings to death in Islamic countries and other, to Western eyes, barbaric practices and so on?

…. There is no ban on mosques, no ban on the practice of Islam, no ban on Muslims just a decision to ban a particular style of architecture – which is cultural not religious ….

FrankX – 139
Well done to the Swiss for asserting their will. …. The Muslims there are still free to practise their religion – this is just a matter of symbolism.

I used to life in Finsbury Park and found the presence of the mosque there detestable- a symbol of violence in my neighbourhood in London, and a place wither Muslims taught each other to loathe [my culture].

Justthefactsman – 90
…. I see nothing wrong with building minarets in Switzerland just as long as Christian churches and Jewish Temples can be built in Mecca.

Until the day that …. Muslim countries allow unrestricted access to proselytisers for other faiths, then Muslims should not expect “tolerance” from anybody else ….

isotope 100
[TR][They fail to assert that Islam is by now a Swiss and a European religion and that Muslim citizens are largely “integrated”.]

They probably don’t assert this because it has no basis in fact. Islam has not had any significant presence in large swathes of Europe …. As for integration, I can’t speak for Switzerland, but a visit to Bradford, Malmo or Rotterdam will demonstrate what utopian nonsense that is.

phco – 172
You are exactly right Tariq – it is a vote against Islam – and it is a sign of the backlash gaining ground across Europe ….

You still don’t quite get the reason for all this, which is simple: In European society you keep your religion private and do not bring it into public discussion or to resolve political debates.

And that is what people sense that many Muslims do …. Islam means and demands submission, and that is what frightens ordinary people – it’s not bigotry and its getting more serious.

Welloilbeefhooked – 123***
By reading through the hundreds of comments posted concerning this article and noting the majority opposition to Mr Ramadan’s viewpoint it strikes me that the Guardian is rapidly loosing touch with it’s readership.

The majority opinion that emerges is that Islamization needs to be put in check and measures introduced to safeguard our traditions and cultural values and belief system.

Now if only the Guardian could find one of it’s writer’s to put forth this viewpoint in an article…. Of course this would mean backtracking on it’s pro -multicultural, pro Islam, open immigration, politically correct vision for Britain that it has forced down the public’s throat, whether they like it or not.

unusedusername – 53
…. Andreas Gross, the hard left socialist president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, called the ban a “slap in the face to everyone who has an idea of the human rights.”

He said: “This is clearly the result of a lack of information and political education in Switzerland. As a result the voters have been misdirected by their emotions. The foundations of Switzerland’s direct democracy have failed.”

Nonsense! The majority have spoken – in other words its true democracy in action. …. What’s he want to do, ban referenda in Switzerland because it upsets the EU who – as we all know – love the people to have a voice?

[@29numbers said] [Soon they are going to ban mosques outright and then start deporting and killing Muslims, just as they did to Jews.]

What utter tripe. Anyway the Swiss never deported Jews

JudeK – 69
I see many comments on here …. stating that the Swiss people’s decision was wrong because it infringes on the Muslim’s human rights.

…. in most Muslim countries …. human rights legislation either does not exist, or has been fundamentally altered to remove some we consider inalienable (e.g.: the freedom to choose one’s religion, clearly due to Islam’s view on apostasy).
And let us forget that even liberal Muslim countries such as Turkey are incredibly cavalier when it comes to human rights.

So… Should we in Europe / the western world extend human rights to those representatives of a religion (or religious political movement, which Islam increasingly is becoming) living within our borders who do not believe in them, except when it suits them?

I think not.

SantaMoniker – 59
…. isn’t it time for people like Tariq Ramadan to step back and ask themselves: “What does this say about me and what I and people like me represent to these Swiss and what do I need to change to create acceptance?”

isotope – 91
…. mosques are not banned, nor is the practice of Islam. The Swiss are reasserting secularism in the face of a religiosity which they find uncomfortably overbearing. Those who subscribe to the Guardian’s liberal enlightenment values should be cheering the Swiss people.

Waltz – 124***
1. Europeans are not afraid of Islam. Don’t flatter yourself. Many Europeans simply dislike and despise it – some are prepared to tolerate it and some are not. Some Europeans are afraid of what Europe will end up doing to Muslims if it can’t find am acceptable way of living with them. ….

2. Islam is not “a European religion”. Just because 20 million or so Muslims now live in Europe doesn’t make their religion “European” any more than the presence of Buddhists and Hindus makes Buddhism and Hinduism “European”.

3. Muslims have not been denied the right to worship. They’ve just been denied the right to build minarets. As any number of mosques appear to survive perfectly well without minarets, a minaret certainly is not a religious requirement. ….

Gipserio – 62
[Ramadan said] [Every European country has its specific symbols or topics through which European Muslims are targeted. In France it is the headscarf or burka; in Germany, mosques; in Britain, violence; cartoons in Denmark; homosexuality in the Netherlands – and so on]

So we’re WRONG when we draw cartoons or defend homosexuals too, are we? No, not expansionist or pushy at all! Je-sus!

harrytheaardvark – 126
…. I have spent several years of my working life in and around Muslim countries in the Middle East. And as much as I like the people and the region with the exception of Saudi, I too reject Islamic values.

I don’t hate Muslims, I have many Muslim friends. But I don’t like their religion (mind you I don’t like any religion in particular) and I dislike the manifestation of Islamic values in countries which have a majority Muslim population.

Censorship is rife, misogyny is pervasive, the death penalty and corporal punishment is near mandatory. I reject all these things.

I don’t actually care what you believe, but Islam is trying to push its beliefs in the West and to our detriment. Note that after “9/11”, and the London tube bombings, Islamic organisations did not rush to condemn the horrors of these actions but rather ran out to cry “don’t blame the Muslim community.”

…. The ridiculously over publicised Danish cartoons (of which the worst were in fact neither Danish nor published) were an exercise in free speech. Don’t like free speech? Don’t come to Europe, that’s part of our culture. ….

…. The Swiss people probably don’t really care much about minarets, but they almost certainly do care about the bigger issue. It might be nice for governments in the West to see this for the warning shot across the bough that this is, and start engaging their own communities to work for integration that is acceptable to them, not just the Muslim one.

stevehill – 81
…. So is there any religious obligation to have a minaret, basically an oriental architectural style which may be incongruous in the Swiss alps?

In my village I can’t build a house in English red brick. The planners (reasonably) will insist on Cotswold stone.

The planners are appointed by (or are) democratically elected councillors. I doubt a minaret would be favoured, any more than would my “right” to build some vast overbearing Mormon temple here.

What’s the difference?

Surfersaiyan – 81
…. there is no need for this kind of extravagant (and rather arrogant) religious display. Respect is a two way street, Mr Ramadan. The Swiss have graciously allowed you in, and even more graciously allowed you to continue to practice your religion unhindered, some countries would not. The least you can do is afford them a little respect.

isotope – 56***
[@harrytheaardvark said] [It might be nice for governments in the West to see this for the warning shot across the bough that this is, and start engaging their own communities to work for integration that is acceptable to them, not just the Muslim one.]

This is the sort of comment that needs to be noted by every government in Western Europe. Well said sir

WatsonsWater – 79
…. If only the UK had the balls to follow the Swiss. In my area, 1,500 people signed a petition against the building of a Mosque. They had nothing against Islam, they felt the Mosque would cause traffic issues (which it has done to this day), they felt that such a building (big dome, minarets) would look out of place in a quaint English Town (it sticks out like a sore thumb), and they were sceptical about the promises of those behind the Mosque who said there would be no call to prayer (there is one, a very loud one which breaches health and safety laws, starts to broadcast at 7 am, with the last one at 10 30 pm, despite laws against this). Coming soon to an area near you!

DougallTheDog – 60
[Berchmans said][This is a worrying thread …. you can see which posts are supporting the measure by the huge number of recommendations. I cant tell if its disgusting or depressing that fixated Islamophobes are attracted here. I’ll work it out on my journey to work. Minarets are pretty .. the skyline in Istanbul is wonderful. Ah well.]

In Istanbul, yes. If I want to see a skyline full of Minarets, that is where I will go.

[AetheismSucks said] [The spiteful racist on these boards cheer the results of the vote which will affect the many Balkan Muslims now living in Switzerland because of the merciless persecution that they suffered at the hands of the Serbs.]

For the 1,000th time, ISLAM IS NOT A RACE! THIS IS NOT RACIST!

Sisong – 85
I am delighted that the Swiss have exercised their democratic right.
Its their country, they live in it, I guess they can decide how it should be run.

Tariq Ramadan: Have you made any process on that moratorium that you suggested? You know, the one that was going to consider whether or not it is right to stone women to death? Any updates on that?

Sabraguy – 83
A very good decision by the Swiss people which will hopefully give Muslims like Tariq Ramadan pause for thought, and serve as a beacon for the rest of Europe.

Freedom of religion is not under attack in Switzerland. There is no ban on mosques. What the Swiss have rightly voted against is the arrogant triumphalism of the minaret.

The Prime Minister of Turkey boasted ‘Minarets are our bayonets’. The Swiss have told him where he can stick his minarets.

ajac – 74
[Ramadan said] [Every European country has its specific symbols or topics through which European Muslims are targeted. In France it is the headscarf or burka; in Germany, mosques; in Britain, violence;]

…. Has he forgotten the suicide bombings in London in 2005, carried out by British Muslims, in which 56 people died and 700 were injured? Does he regard this as primarily symbolic? If we British, Muslim and non Muslim alike, find this mayhem troublesome, is that because we’re prejudiced?

And further, does Mr Ramadan really think the biggest problem for Muslims today is the lack of minarets in Switzerland? Surely Muslims killing other Muslims in great numbers in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Darfur, Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere are a problem he might find more worthy of his attention.

Pairubu – 53
…. the skyline in Istanbul is wonderful. Ah yes, happy memories of being woken at 5.30 by every dog in Istanbul barking at the muezzin’s (taped) call. Perhaps, as a gesture of good intent, the Turks could turn Hagia Sofia back into a church?

physiocrat – 67
[@islamophobiasucks said] [The reason why Non- Muslim places of worship are not built in The Hejaz is the same reason as to why there are no Non- Christian places of worship in The Vatican, because these places are regarded as sacrosanct. ….]

Area of Vatican City 44 ha, Population 900: Area of Saudi Arabia 2,240,000 sq km. Population 20 million.

That is a hell of a large sacrosanct area.

This kind of spurious reasoning makes one wonder if studying the Koran can damage the brain’s logic circuitry, which may also explain the fact that the majority of victims of Muslim terrorism are Muslims.

endofdays – 59
[Ramadan said][Over the last two decades Islam has become connected to so many controversial debates – violence, extremism, freedom of speech, gender discrimination, forced marriage, to name a few – it is difficult for ordinary citizens to embrace this new Muslim presence as a positive factor.]

What are the positive factors of Islam?

I think that Europeans are finally waking up to the constant demands of Islam while at the same time seeing that in Islamic countries, non-Muslims are discriminated against by the state and in many cases forbidden to practice their own religion. Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow non-Muslims to enter Mecca or any other religion to be practiced on its soil.

haldir – 64
…. If you strongly object to democracy there’s plenty of undemocratic countries out there which you could emigrate to, and where the religious climate is closer to your comfort zone.

On the other hand, instead of complaining in a British newspaper about the Swiss, you could try winning some hearts and minds back in the cantons.

Did it ever occur to you that people just dislike Islam, and there’s nothing wrong with that?

FreddyMzungu – 43***
…. It all smacks a bit of The Satanic Verses furore which would have been best just ignored. OK, no minarets? Then build a mosque without one – no problem.

…. A famous Arab proverb is: “beware the wrath of the generous host”. Western cultures generally have been very good to incoming Muslims and have by general consensus more freedom than many Muslims living in Muslim-majority states. Having the right to a minaret isn’t going to make people like Muslims whereas generosity and ethical behaviour is. Muslims should learn to duck and carry on and not create hoo-hahs. And I say this as a Muslim.

Anglophobia – 70
[Ramadan said][Over the last two decades Islam has become connected to so many controversial debates – violence, extremism, freedom of speech, gender discrimination, forced marriage, to name a few – it is difficult for ordinary citizens to embrace this new Muslim presence as a positive factor.]

Exactly. And the connections weren’t made out of bigotry. They were made by noticing Muslims’ actions and words inside and outside Europe. What do you expect? We don’t like what we’ve seen so far, and we don’t want more of it.

Pairubu – 49
[Somebody said] [“people just dislike Islam, and there’s nothing wrong with that”. The gas chambers are this way.]

A particularly stupid and vicious post. Disliking something does not necessarily mean you want it destroyed. I dislike, among other things, rhubarb, U2 and the skin on custard. I also recognise that others don’t feel my disgust and, consequently, am quite happy for them to exist in the world.

Disliking a religion does not mean hating the people who chose to practice it, at least not among grown ups.

Anglophobia – 75***
[Ramadan said] [At the very moment Europeans find themselves asking, in a globalising, migratory world, “What are our roots?”, “Who are we?”, “What will our future look like?”, they see around them new citizens, new skin colours, new symbols to which they are unaccustomed.]

The conceit behind this paragraph is that the world is going global, that there’s migration everywhere, a demographic, cultural, and religious mixing around the globe, and that Europeans need to adjust, accommodate, and make room for the global inevitable, to diversity.

But is this globalization really global? What exact parallels does he have in mind elsewhere. Where’s the massive white Christian influx to Egypt? Where’s the Hispanic rush to Pakistan? In what decade will Swedes become the majority in Riyadh?

Are ancient Christian communities fleeing from or flooding to Iraq?
The truth is that, aside from marginal exceptions …. Muslims are spreading into Christian/liberal-secular lands while the reverse is not happening. In fact, Islamic lands are becoming more militantly Islamic.

…. In other words, whenever Ramadan talks about the need to adjust to globalization, what he means in practice is adjusting to the advance of Islam.

iamsterman – 53
It’s interesting that Ramadan finds the civil rights of homosexuals in the Netherlands to be anti-muslim. I remember a imam saying he felt his freedom of religion some ten years back being infringed upon because he couldn’t say gays should thrown off of buildings to their death.

It shows what people are afraid of, I think. That Muslims will use the freedoms of western democracy to impose their religious philosophy on the majority.

sydk – 34
[Ramadan said] [I have been repeating for years to Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and proactive within their respective Western societies]

It all depends how you define the word “positive” – they certainly have been “visible” and “active”. That is probably the reason why 58 percent (a surprisingly low number under the circumstances) voted against the minarets.

The ‘Danish cartoons’ riots around Europe and the Middle East and the placards carried by the extremist Islamists was enough for Europeans to finally realise that they had a serious problem that needed to be urgently addressed.

brissy – 41
There is something a bit sleazy and conniving about the writer.
It must be distressing for him to see that his ‘victimhood” doublespeak cant even gain traction with the Guardian crowd these days.

…. It’s tough gig these days for the Islamist to flog his wares in Europe. People are awake to the ‘all take – no give” attitude of people like Mr Ramadan.

He writes – ”The claim was made that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Swiss values.” yes Mr Ramadan – a good number of Swiss happen to feel this way… in fact a massive number of Europeans feel this way and you sound surprised??

People are struggling hard to find benefits amongst all of the women being treated as chattel – bombs going off… lunatics calling for Sharia… off with cartoonists heads etc etc. The list is endless and grows daily.

DolleDolf – 45
Hurrah for the Swiss. A clear signal that we have had enough. I write this as an educated left voting (until recently) atheist Dutchman. We have had enough of our hard won secular societies (against stifling Christianity) being held justice by the sensitivities of the adherents to the most intolerant of all religions.

…. We don’t want sharia law. We don’t want entire neighbourhoods, towns and cities populated by people who with their dress and attitude permanently declare a disaffection, dislike, and even hatred of our secular values and view nonbelievers and followers of other religions as unclean animals.

Who when given the choice would roll back the separation of religion and state and have our countries run along the lines of Saudi Arabia or Iran. And people are slowly waking up to this reality.

I woke up more than 25 years ago when I wanted to eat my lunch and was told to go and have it outside in consideration of the Muslim contingent of factory workers fasting because of Ramadan ….

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