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Minarets and Europe's Crisis

This article appeared in the online version of Al Jazeera English

The mind is boggled by the fact that Switzerland, a country renowned for its tolerant nature, could come to see less than a handful of minarets as a threat to its identity and culture.

 

The main campaign poster used by far right groups to rally against the construction of minarets in Switzerland depicted a Muslim woman in niqab standing before a multitude of minarets graphically rendered to look like missiles.

 

Switzerland's Commission Against Racism said that the campaign poster defamed the country's Muslim minority.

 

Neither the niqab nor the minaret is characteristic of the Muslim community in Switzerland but both have been regularly used to stoke the flames of hatred and fear against Muslims throughout Europe in recent times.

 

And it was that fear which pushed over half of Swiss voters to choose, by a majority of 57 per cent, to support the minaret ban called for by the Union Démocratique du Centre (UDC), a right wing populist party.

 

 

The only way forward is for a realisation that Europe is not built solely on a Judeo-Christian heritage, but that Muslims too have played a vital and significant role in shaping modern day Europe through contributions of culture, arts, politics, law, theology, science, medicine and dozens of other disciplines.

 

There must be a realisation too that the 30 million or so European Muslims have become part of the European social fabric, through an invaluable contribution which they have made over decades if not for centuries.

 

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Anas Altikriti

2nd December 2009