Muslim communities say the decision will spread deep concern and worry. The Swiss government and businesses are worried too - about whether this controversial but democratic ballot will provoke an international backlash.
Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera English, “Swiss brace for minaret backlash”
What excellent timing: the Swiss schedule their votation on banning minarets for the weekend of one of Islam's holiest - and most joyous - feasts, the Eid al-Kabir. A real poke in the eye.
What if that backlash that Alan Fisher fears were to include a disinvestment or divestment wave among Muslim countries, selling off Swiss franc securities, withdrawing hidden billions (trillions?) from Swiss bank accounts? It’s not up to me to call for any such thing. After all, the hundreds of thousands of Muslim residents (and probably a certain number of Muslim Swiss citizens) have gotten along somehow with a minimum of minarets all these years - apparently there may be as few as four (4) in all of Switzerland! - while toiling away to help develop the Swiss economy.
But this has as much to do with minarets as the debate over the veil has to do with women’s fashion. The latter may have undercurrents of concern about women’s rights, whereas the Swiss “Oui/Ja” campaign has all to do with Islamophobia. Can't the Swiss just relax a bit and think of their new neighbors as something other than a threat? The great 1973 Italian comedy "Bread and Chocolate" with Nino Manfredi playing an immigrant in pristine Switzerland shows that a current of xenophobia has run in the land of Lindt for some time. It was only a decade ago that Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss had to apologize for her country's treatment of Jews fleeing the Holocaust - belying the image of refugees struggling to reach safety in the Alps.
In matters of integration (or re-integration), the recent experience of a Swiss Family Robinson (actually Swiss Family Diplomatic is more like it) is instructive. These friends of ours, a Suisse-Romand from Lausanne and his wife from Bern, returned a few years ago to their capital city after a quarter century roaming the world under the Swiss flag. Settling back into life in their native country, they were immediately taken aback by their neighbors’ attitude. Introducing oneself to the man next door - something our friends did naturally in Africa or Latin America - was greeted with suspicion and worse. “I have been waiting for years to tell you about that bothersome window…” was the way one neighbor helpfully greeted their knock on the door.
When the native Bern wife went to the local municipal office and spoke a rusty form of the local patois, her ignorance of the latest procedures was met with incredulous suspicion - how can you have reached your fifth decade of life and not know these rudimentary rules? The fact that she had spent the better part of the previous three decades helping her husband give Switzerland a good name in diplomatic circles around the world was lost on the local burghers. They just didn’t fit in.
If the above can happen to French-German-Italian speaking Christian native Swiss, then the minaret ban is probably the least of the worries for the poor Muslim Swiss. And they know that. Ever notice how the Swiss flag itself is a cross, a bit reminiscent of the same thing that Crusaders used to wear?
The question is: do the “Yes” voters on the minaret ban know what they’ve done? Financial flows may begin to tell us in the very near future. And how about all those unofficial, storefront or storage locker mosques, without minarets? Will they make the Swiss feel more secure than a properly constituted, publicly visible mosque with a trained Imam? Who will be leading prayers in the underground mosques, and what will they be preaching?
India at one point had a Ministry of Disinvestment. How long will it be before we see Muslim finance ministers examine their Swiss holdings?
An earlier version of this post appeared in Blogactiv.eu.