Minaret Vote: Muslim reactions

Minaret Vote: Muslim reactions

Various reactions from European Muslims.

See also
* European Right: Let's all ban minarets (Support and condemnation from across Europe)
* Quote: "Islam is by now a Swiss and a European religion" ( Tariq Ramadan)

Muhammad Abdul Bari of the Muslim Council of Britain also makes the point made by Tariq Ramadan: "Mosques and minarets in our European cities are manifestations of the proudly indigenous nature of Islam in Europe".


The imam of the biggest mosque in Switzerland called on all the Muslims in the world to respect the verdict of the Swiss about the banning of new minarets. Any statement in which the verdict is rejected would harm the Muslim community, imam Youssef Ibram of the Geneva mosque said on Monday.

He called the Muslim to be calm. "It will not help to abandon trade with Switzerland or to break contacts with the country," says Ibram. "The Muslims should show respect without accepting the verdict. They should respect the decision of the Swiss. Otherwise we will be the first victims," said the imam.


The president of Zurich's Association of Muslim Organisations, Tamir Hadjipolu, told the BBC: "This will cause major problems because during this campaign mosques were attacked, which we never experienced in 40 years in Switzerland.

"Islamaphobia has increased intensively."


Swiss Muslims, who come mainly from the Balkans and Turkey, reacted with sorrow. "The most painful thing for us is not the ban on minarets, but the symbol sent by this vote," said Farhad Afshar, leader of the Swiss Coordination of Islamic Organisations. "Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community," he said.


The rector of the great mosque in Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, who has contacts with other Muslim leaders, said the the decision caused surprise, dismay and disbelief among Muslims in Europe.

"The result of the referendum is an expression of Islamophobia and we don't understand it. Nobody had expected this 'no' to minarets. It's a sight that the Swiss confuse a peaceful practice of Islam and militant Islamism," says Dalil Boubakeur.

The referendum results has already lead to demonstration in several parts of Switzerland, in Bern and Zurich, and more protests are in wait, says Boubakeur.

"In France this means additional difficulties for building the mosque in Marseille," says Boubakeur.

Switzerland is afraid of boycotts and suffering economically, but Boubakeur doesn't think that the wealthy Muslims would leave Swiss banks. "Switzerland didn't insult Muslims and do not intend to destroy existing minarets. The problem is that distrust has increased," he says.

United Kingdom

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Monday condemned as "tragic and deplorable" the Swiss vote on banning of minarets in the alpine country. The vote revealed the extent to which far-right racist groups were "winning the battle of ideas on the future of Europe," MCB secretary general Muhammad Abdul Bari said in a statement.

"The Swiss referendum results show how far and how quickly Europe is moving in the wrong direction in its attitudes and policies towards Muslims and other minority groups in Europe," he said.

"Mosques and minarets in our European cities are manifestations of the proudly indigenous nature of Islam in Europe. It is tragic that the far right is stripping away at our illustrious heritage of coexistence between different faiths and cultures in Europe and replacing it with their warped and xenophobic outlook," said Bari.

"This is no less than a battle of ideas for the future of a plural and progressive Europe," he added.


Mahmoud Aldebe of the Swedish Muslim Assocation regrets the Swiss decision.

"The relationship with the Muslim world and Switzerland will be affected very negatively. I think that people will see Switzerland in a different way than in the past - netural and free. Now people see taht there's a lot of xenophobia and racism that somehow creeps in among the people there. But there's lacking much, much knowledge about Muslims and it is perhaps our fault that we aren't capable of informing about Islam and Muslims in a way that others can grasp and understand."

Q: How do you respond when things get like this? Are you sad, or ...?

A: I'm very sad because minarets don't harm anyone. On the contrary, they are good for the surrounding, a variety in the surrounding, and this is about the same as if one would say to Christians that the next step will be to ban also church bells in a referendum. Would you be happy or sad, though the clocks make more noise than minarets. So natrually it's very sad when one hears of a referendum like this," says Mahmod Aldebe.

FIOE - Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (Brussels)

The referendum in Switzerland on places of worship is a sad setback to the obligations regarding religious freedom

The message of hate directed at Muslims is seriously troubling, and must be renounced and remedied

With great sadness, the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) received the results of the referendum carried out in Switzerland on Sunday, 29 November 2009. The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe considers this an unfortunate retreat from the obligations of protecting religious freedom and human rights, not in keeping with Switzerland's standing and values.

No doubt, that well before that, the mere idea of putting issues related to religious freedom and human rights to vote is quite unacceptable and unjustifiable. Furthermore, the situation where the majority votes on issues related to the rights of the minority is fundamentally at odds with the spirit of democracy, which cannot be allowed to be used as an open door to incitement, and an excuse to pit citizens against their fellow partners in society.

The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe has followed with deep disquiet, the events of the past months and weeks in Switzerland—the charging of Swiss public opinion against Muslims, and feeding selective racism and political extremism, in a clear gamble on disturbing the stability of that society, under the pretext of banning minarets.

These developments are cause for serious worry, and indicate a state of retreat, in some European countries, in fundamental rights and religious freedoms. This is what requires revision and treatment at all levels. We consider the inflammatory campaigns that took place, as undermining the values, which Switzerland and European societies value above all else. It is worth noting that such campaigns, which feed a culture of extremism and bigotry are a disservice to any country regardless, or any society that prides itself on upholding human values, and moral obligations.

On this occasion, we invite officials, public opinion leaders, human rights organisations, and civic society institutions to work towards preserving civil liberties, and confront the results of this vote, which restricts the rights of Muslims to practise their religion.

We are also confident that Muslims in Switzerland shall remain ever concerned, as do their partners in society, with reinforcing the foundations of consensus, and pillars of harmony that must not be eroded, or surrendered under whatever pretext.

Sources: Trouw (Dutch); SR 1, 2 (Swedish); BBC, Times, Earth Times (English)

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