Switzerland: Islamophobia or legitimate defense

Switzerland: Islamophobia or legitimate defense

Swiss newspaper Le Matin reports of a new book titled "Islamophobia or legitimate defense: Equality of the Sexes and Democracy - the Swiss face Islamic Fundamentalism". 

Today, criticizing certain practices of Islam immediately passes for Islamophobia, but a democratic and feminist Swiss is now fighting this state of affairs.  She's publishing a book denouncing the  the tactics of fundamentalist Muslims who want to put to sleep this critical ability of democracies, including the Swiss.

Mireille Valette, 58, from Geneva and France, former journalist, now working at the Geneva Institute, is a small, almost frail woman, not one to give the impression of a warmonger.  However, she just wrote a book which promises a big debate and a flood of controversy. 

In her book Mireille Valette says that when it comes to Islam, in Switzerland, the only ones to be constantly heard on the side of this religion are the fundamentalist, their imams and their spokespeople.  Even worse, to put the people to sleep, these spokespeople adorn themselves with the trappings of modernity and open mind, and are specialists in double-talk, ducking and maneuvering.

Mireille Valette doesn't beat around the bush.  A set of convictions drive her: a steadfast democrat and feminist, she places equality between man and woman, laicite (secularism), freedom of expression and respect for individual freedoms at the center of her concerns.  She believes in these values, and thinks that they are the foundation of our western societies.  She observes that Islam, in its literal interpretation, doesn't respect these values, nor the basic individual freedoms, such as the freedom to renounce your religion.

Mireille Valette's observations are relentless, thorough and documented: of apostasy, punished by death in certain Islamic countries, of forced marriages, by wearing headscarves, exemptions from gym, circumcision, fatwas against freedom of expression, the rigorous application of Sharia, and the list is long.

At the end of each of these observation comes the final test question: what do the imams, 'moderate' spokespeople, and civilized, intellectual Muslims who take pride of place here, in Switzerland, say of concrete practices. what do they say of this dark and deadly Islam?

In her book Mireille Valette parades them, squirming, dodging, not responding or knowing.  For example, asked about a man who abandoned his religion and was sentenced to death in Afghanistan, the president of the League of Swiss Muslims says that his organization wants to discuss only issues relating to Muslim in Switzerland, and not to those in Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Another example among dozens, circumcision. Does the elegant and persuasive 'modernist' Tariq Ramadan condemn this practice?  Mireille Valette says that one would imagine that he would condemn it with no ifs and buts, but that too demanding.  She quotes the intellectual, who says that Islam recognizes cultural practices when they don't oppose an obligation or prohibition.  Mireille Valette translates and decodes: circumcision is a cultural practice which isn't obligatory or prohibited by the scriptures, believers can therefore certainly practice it with the support of some Muslim scholars.

With all the examples she's collected, with the hundreds of quotes, the frail but stubborn Mireille Valette drives it in: why do all these so-called moderates, liberals, and humanists, have so much trouble condemning the intolerable?  Because they're neither modern, nor liberal, nor humanist.  Because it's masked fundamentalism.

At the end of this ruthless demonstration, Mireille Valette urges debate: she wants to end the accusation of Islamophobia of anybody who dares express an opinion critical of certain practices of Islam.  She claims to have finally started the debate on Islam in Switzerland: a realistic and political debate, a democratic debate.

Source: Le Matin (French)

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