A Little Mosque in Switzerland
- A mosque with a minaret in Switzerland
A Little Mosque in Switzerland
Ali Bulac - a.bulac @ todayszaman.com
A few weeks ago the Cihan news agency reported a story about a debate
in Switzerland over the construction of a minaret in Langenthal.
According to the story Muslims using an old paint factory for worship
asked permission from the local administration to build a five-meter
minaret on the roof of the factory. After the local administration
approved, people began to speak out. Claiming that minarets are not
necessary for worship, the Swiss People's Party, a right-wing group
holding a majority in the country's parliament, launched a campaign to
ban minarets. They tried to collect signatures for a general
referendum on the ban, but the Berne administration cancelled the
Oskar Freysinger from the Swiss People's Party said, "If you want to
live here, you have to accept our laws. Otherwise go back to your
country." Some Cabinet ministers opposed this campaign, taking into
consideration the possibility that it could anger Muslims. According
to one Swiss newspaper, 43 percent of the population there is "against
minarets" (Today's Zaman, May 29, 2007).
Although the terms "multi-cultural" and "coexistence" are slowly
losing popularity nowadays, this is an interesting article because it
shows that Europe, like most other places, has problems when it comes
to living with multiple ethnic and religious groups. In Europe there
is a growing Muslim population with 20 million Muslims in Vienna and
countries to the west.
Those who oppose the construction of the minaret say "the minaret is
an Islamic symbol." It is correct that the minaret is one of the
symbols of Islam. If you look at a city from afar and see a minaret
and the silhouette of a mosque, you know there are Muslims present in
that city. However the history of Islam has no record of an "Islamic
city model" where only Muslims live and which is decorated solely with
Islamic symbols. In any predominantly Muslim city, notable exceptions
being Mecca and Medina, one can also find many non-Muslim symbols.
Throughout Islamic history and during the Ottoman era, all houses of
worship (i.e., mosques, churches, and synagogues) were located in the
city center. In other words, it wasn't as though mosques were built in
the city center and the churches and synagogues were built in the
outskirts of the city. That is how a real multicultural and
multi-social society should be. In this type of plural society, there
are many options for religious and ethnic groups to represent
themselves. Every religion and ethnicity can demonstrate its values
through architecture, music, language, accents, food, clothing and
There are examples of this in Istanbul, Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad,
Tehran and all other Islamic centers. Sultan Abdülhamit built three
houses of worship in the common lodging area -- one for Muslims, one
for Christians and one for Jews. Today these buildings still stand
side-by-side. Additionally there are mosques, churches and synagogues
next to each other in Istanbul's historical peninsula and the areas of
Eminönü, Fatih, Beyoğlu, Üsküdar and Kadıköy. No one has ever said
"you are Christian or Jewish and if you want to live here, you have to
accept our laws (in other words you have to remove your symbols and
temples)." On the contrary Islamic laws have provided representation
rights for different religions. Hence the cause of intolerance towards
various religions is not Islam and its sociopolitical experience, but
rather the 20th century's modern political and cultural viewpoints.
Ali Bulac is a columnist for Zaman, an English daily newspaper from Turkey
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